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The notable upon whom the Caliph has been pleased to confer a high appointment loses no time in devoting himself to the interests of his own tribe, and at once arouses the anger of the others, who intrigue against him until they procure his disgrace, when the game begins over again with somebody else.
The Bedouin lives for himself and his tribe, beyond it he has no friends ; his neighbour is the man of his tribe, his relation. Faithfulness to his pledged word, honesty and frankness only concern members of the tribe, the contributes. This is the boasted Amenokal ; 1 2 he is not nominated until the actual election, a principle which was afterwards maintained in the selection of the earlier Caliphs. But his authority amounts to just what is possible among people thirsting for independence ; his counsels are listened to ; they are sometimes followed ; he is not always obeyed.
The possession of wealth confers no title to public esteem, in the first place because it does not procure any particular enjoyment. What is the good of being rich in a place where there is nothing? The Bedouin who owns ten camels is just as happy as the man who owns a hundred, since all the advantage he can derive from them is confined to the milk on which he feeds himself and the fleece from which he makes his clothing. Besides, wealth is unstable.
Repre- sented solely by flocks and herds, it is at the mercy of an epizootic, or of a raid. He has, moreover, a high opinion of his person; he is a proud man. Pride is a Semitic failing ; the Semite has always considered himself as of a superior race, the chosen of God. In his adventurous excursions, under a burning sun, through barren regions, he appreciates the value of assured delights. His ideal is the simple one of a man of no possessions : to eat, to drink and to sleep.
As a wandering horseman he longs to rest upon soft cushions; in a chronic state of semi-starvation, he dreams of savoury dishes heaped-up; parched with thirst, he longs for the coolness of never-failing springs. In a country where the beauty of the women lasts about as long as the roses, he dreams of women who never grow old.
In short, he is a lover of free indulgence, who will stick at nothing to obtain the satisfaction of his desires. She seemed so young even in the eyes of the Arabs, that the Prophet, in spite of his authority, had to wait eight months before consumating his marriage. One day, Mahomet cast his eye upon Zineb, the wife of Zaid, a young man whom he had adopted. Mahomet declared that he loved three things better than all else : perfumes, women and flowers.
His paradise is a place of carnal pleasures and material enjoyments, such as a nomad of the desert pictures to himself. Ceaselessly absorbed by the cares of his adventurous life, the Bedouin concerns himself only with immediate realities. He fights to live and cares but little for philosophy. He is a realist, and not a theorist; he acts and has no time to think. His faculties of observation have been developed at the expense of his imagination, and without imagin- ation no progress is possible.
It is this that explains the stagnation of the Bedouin over whom centuries pass without in any way changing his mode of life. The impetuosity of his nature, the warmth of his passions, the ardour of his desires have caused him to be credited with a disordered imagination. His language, poor in abstract words, and only able to express an idea exactly by the help of similes and comparisons, has maintained the illusion.
Never- theless, the Arab is the least imaginative of beings ; his brain is dry; he is no philosopher; and he has never put forth an original thought, either in religion or in literature. Before Islam, the Bedouin, just emerged from Totemism, worshipped divinities personifying the heavenly bodies or natural phenomena : the stars, thunder, the sun, etc. Among the Greeks, the Hindus, the Scandinavians, the gods have a past, a history; man has moulded them to his own likeness, he has given them his passions, his virtues, and even his vices.
The gods of the Bedouin have no distinctive character; they are mournful divinities, one fears them, hut one knows them not. The Arab Pantheon is inhabited by lifeless dolls, of whom, moreover, the greater part were brought in from outside, notably from Syria. The principle of the unity of God is of 'Sabean origin; as is also the Musulman prayer and the fast of Ramadhan. The Arab conception of the world was borrowed from the Sabeans and the Hebrews.
The religious sects that came into being under the later Caliphs, and whose subtle doctrines exhibit an overflowing imagination, are of Indian and Egyptian inspira- tion. They represent exactly a reaction on the part of the subject peoples against the barrenness and poverty of the Musulman dogma and the Arab spirit. In literature there is the same intellectual destitu- tion. The Arab poets describe what they see and what they feel; but they invent nothing; if some- times they venture on a flight of imagination, their fellow-countrymen treat them as liars.
Any aspira- tion. Invention is so rare a quality in Arab literature that when one does meet with a poem or a story in which fancy forms any considerable element, it is safe to say at once that the work is not original, but a translation. The oldest monument of pre-Islamic poetry, the Moallakat, are poor rhapsodies copied from one model : when you have read one of them you know the rest.
They translated and commented upon the works of the ancients; they enriched certain special subjects by patient, exact and minute observation; but they invented nothing; we owe to them no great and fruitful idea. His faculties of struggle and resistance are highly developed, namely physical strength, endurance and powers of observation. Necessity has made him a robber, a man of prey; he stalks his game when he espies a caravan or the douar camp of some sedentary tribe.
Like a wild beast, he sees a chance when it arises. An egoist, his social horizon stops at the tribe, beyond which he knows neither friend nor neigh- bour. A realist, he has no other ideal than the satisfaction of his material wants — to eat, to drink, and to sleep. Having no time for thought or contemplation, his brain has become atrophied; he acts on the spur of the moment, we might almost say by his reflexes ; he is totally devoid of imagina- tion and of the creative faculty.
Such is the man who has conceived Islam and who by the strength of his arm and the sharpness of his sword, has carved out of the world this Musulman Empire. There was no such thing as an Arab nation, if by that name we mean an aggregation of persons subject to a regular govern- ment, knowing themselves to be of common origin and pursuing the same ideal.
Caussin de Perceval, who has collected into three volumes the chronicles relating to pre-Islamic times, has been unable to draw from these documents any ensemble of facts linked together logically that would convey the impression of a nation. Part of Syria was indeed under the rule of the Greek Emperors of Constantinople ; the Arab coast of the Persian Gulf was under the domination of the kings of Persia; and a portion of the Red Sea littoral was for a time under the Chris- tian kings of Abyssinia; but the influence of these conquerors was always confined to these restricted regions.
I am not going to risk my armies in your deserts for such a trifle. In the attempt to extract some general idea from the rubbish-heap of the Arab chronicles we may succeed in arranging these scattered families in two principal groups : the Yemenites, and the Moaddites. They established themselves in the Yemen, but were driven out later and dis- persed over the whole of Arabia.
A section of these immigrants, to which the ancestors of Mahomet belonged, claimed to be descended from Ishmael, the son of Abraham. The Yemenites had as their centre Yathreb, which subsequently became Medina : the Moaddites had Mecca. The Yemenites, estab- lished in fertile regions, became a settled people devoted to agriculture ; the Moaddites were nomads, shepherds and camel-drivers.
This is merely an outline sketch; in reality, all these tribes, of whatever origin, lived in a state of the most complete anarchy — the anarchy of the Semite. There is not even any religious connection ; 4 each tribe had its protecting idol, a vague souvenir of the worship of their forefathers. There was no government, no social organization beyond the family and the tribe.
Neither art nor literature is to be found among men absorbed by the anxieties of a dangerous life ; there are indeed a few rhapsodical poems bearing a distant resemblance to the songs of our troubadours. There was no other ideal than the satisfaction of immediate wants, no aim in life beyond the pursuit of the daily subsistence — a prey, a lucky dash, a copious meal, such was their ideal ; it might perhaps suffice for an individual shrunk into his own egoism, it could never be the ideal of a nation.
This antagonism was carried on into the conflict between Yathreb and Mecca. Yathreb, more favoured than Mecca as regards climate, built against the moist mountain mass of Nejed, was surrounded by fertile lands. Its inhabitants devoted themselves to agriculture and petty trading, and as these are stationary occupa- tions, they became sedentary. Their manners grew gentler, so much so that after centuries of quiet life, 1 Burckhardt, op.
The Jews, cradled in the old Messianic tradition, spoke freely of the coming appearance of a messenger from God. The worship of idols, undermined by both Jews and Christians, was to -a certain extent abandoned. In short, in a period of general anarchy, Yathreb was a town in which order was maintained, and was the most peaceable city in Arabia.
In contact with sea-faring nations through its port of Djeddah, it had become the principal entrepot of whatever trade there was at that time between the Indies and the countries of the West — Syria, Egypt and even Italy. The men of Yathreb, wishing to share these tempting profits, had tried hard to divert a portion of the traffic to their city; in this they had not succeeded, for three reasons : firstly, because the caravans preferred Mecca as a sort of half-way house.
The camels of the Koreich were loaded with costly burdens in the markets of Sana and Merab, and in the ports of Oman and Aden. The men of Yathreb, husbandmen and small shopkeepers, were incapable of any such enterprise. Finally, because Mecca had always been from the remotest ages, a place of pilgrimage, to which men repaired to bow down in the temple of the Kaaba before a certain black stone said to have been brought down from heaven in the time of Abraham by the servants of God Almighty.
The Koreich, the tribe to which Mahomet belonged, were the guardians of this temple, an office that brought them in appreciable profits. Thus both religion and commerce made Mecca an important social centre, bringing her great pros- perity, and thereby exciting the envy of the men of Yathreb. They detested the Meccans, who returned the sentiment with interest. Moreover, they dis- liked them for their licentious mode, of living. The companions of my pleasures are young men of noble blood, whose faces shine like the stars.
Every evening, a singer, dressed in a striped robe and a saffron-coloured tunic, comes to brighten our company. I have devoted myself to wine and pleasure; I have sold all I possessed, I have dissipated what wealth I acquired myself as well as that which I inherited.
You, Censor, who blame my passion for pleasure and fighting, can you make me immortal? If all your wisdom cannot stave off the fatal moment, leave me in peace to squander everything on enjoyment before death can reach me. To-morrow, severe Censor, when we shall both of us die, we shall see which of us two will be consumed by a burning thirst.
Compared to the wealthy caravan-owners of Mecca; who were great business schemers, they were small men, of austere morals, of regular habits, peaceable temperament and affable. Returning insult for insult, the men of Yathreb 'called them bandits and highwaymen. Religion was dragged into the quarrel. The Jews established in Yathreb had succeeded in converting certain families of the Aus and the Khazdradj.
The Meccans, attached to the old idolatrous worship, not from religious conviction but by mundane interest, since the Ivaaba attracted many visitors and customers, took advantage of these conversions to lash their adversaries with the epithet of Jews.
The rivalry between Yathreb and Mecca was of considerable importance ; for, in the midst of general disorder these two towns represented the only centres of Arab thought. It was their quarrels that favoured the development of Islam, and at a later date became the cause of troubles and divisions in the Musulman Empire. If Mahomet, disowned by the Meccans, hunted and threatened with death, had not found refuge and support at Medina, it is more than probable that his great adventure would have miscarried, and that his name would have fallen into oblivion like those of so many other prophets of the same period.
Owing to their enterprising spirit, the Meccans soon became very rich. The caravan trade, doubled by the trade in slaves, returned huge profits. These Bedouins became all at once merchant princes, and gave themselves corresponding airs. Prosperity has its effect upon character ; it diminishes the fighting spirit, and produces a con- servative tendency.
Having acquired wealth, the men of Mecca intended to live a pleasant life; their interests were seriously compromised by the general state of anarchy that prevailed, under cover of which their caravans were being held up to ransom by robber bands, and by the conflicts between tribes which also interfered with their traffic. They were very indignant at these acts of brigandage on the part of the Bedouins, and preached respect for the property of others.
Being men of action, the Meccans were not content merely to advocate the principles of order, they took steps to impose them. With this object several important personages of the tribe of the Koreich founded a sort of league, in a. The Fodhoul intended to com- bat by every available means the anarchy that was so injurious to trade and consequently to their interests ; they first attempted to suppress, or at least to reduce the conflicts between tribes by instituting truces, or suspensions of hostilities, under the most diverse pretexts : such as the Holy Month, a pilgrimage, important markets, etc.
They began with what one might call an appeal to Arab patriotism; that is, to their hatred of the foreigner. In this connection an event occurred that favoured their projects. The Abyssinians, led by the Negus Abrahah, had made an attempt to take Mecca, whose wealth excited their envy. The Negus having then turned his arms against the Yemen, had been driven out by the tribes united under the command of a Hemyarite prince.
This was a noteworthy step, as signifying solidarity, when sons of the same Fatherland drew together in mutual understanding. As soon as the enemy had been driven out, the tribes at once resumed their liberty ; but the Fodhoul, encouraged by the success of their initiative, set to work to exploit the Bedouin sentiment of xenophobia.
Circumstances favoured their propaganda, since the Abyssinians on the west, the Greeks on the north, and the Persians on the east were all threatening Arabia. The Fodhoul were also contemplating a unification of the language, as a means of bringing the tribes together. People can only agree when they understand each other, and for this to be possible they must speak the same language.
But Arabia was a perfect Babel of different dialects ; the thread running through them all was certainly Arabic, but debased in each tribe by mispronunciation, or by the use of local expressions, to such an extent that a Bedouin of Nejed could not understand a man from the Hedjaz, and the latter could not make himself understood by his fellow- countryman of the Yemen. Their verses, which were recited everywhere, were to fix once for all the words intended to represent ideas : when several families made use of two different words to express the same idea, the word the bard had chosen was the one to be adopted, and thus the Arab language was gradually formed.
Each tribe held to its own beliefs. The Fodhoul could not dream of fighting against idolatry, since the temple of the Kaaba brought many visitors to Mecca. As astute men, superior to vulgar superstition, they conceived the ingenious idea of melting all the different creeds together so as to make one, and thus satisfy everybody. They drew the outlines of a sort of Arab religion which, whilst respecting the ancient customs of the Bedouins, would find room for certain Sabean, Jewish, and Christian beliefs.
That is how they came to adopt the Sabean principle of one God over all ; and the Messianic idea of the Jews as to the coming appearance of a prophet charged to establish the reign of justice. As certain tribes claimed to be descended from Abraham, they made a great deal of this patriarch, to please the Jews and Christians.
It is evident that the Meccans, whose minds had been widened by foreign travel, were very clever men. In working, from commercial interests, for 3 Sedillot, op. The Fodhoul were the precursors of Mahomet, who, moreover, being a member of their league, without doubt drew from this association many ideas the source of which could not be accounted for in any other way. He misunderstood and tried to injure the interests of his tribe and of his native city.
His propaganda was carried on against the Koreich and the Meccans, in spite of all they could do, with the support of their enemies. The reasons for his attitude may be easily explained. In comparison with the wealthy magnates of Mecca, Mahomet was a pauper. His family, the Hachems, formerly well-to-do, had fallen upon evil days, until they had become the poorest family in the Koreich. They were living upon the guardian- ship of the temple of the Kaaba, that is to say, upon the gifts of the pilgrims.
Silent and impressionable, subject to epileptic attacks, his character became more gloomy still from the fact of his wretched condition. His youth was one long struggle against poverty. He suffered in silence from his feebleness, his poverty and the contempt with which he was treated by the rich caravan-owners about him. He withdrew into himself ; his character hardened, and from that time he must have felt some animosity towards the people of Mecca.
On the death of his mother , he was taken in by his grandfather, Abd-el-Mottaleb, a kind old man, who had no time to surround him with the family affection he needed, as he died three years later Young Mahomet then passed into the family of his uncle, Abu-Taleb, who as a busy man of affairs had no time to waste in maudlin sentimen- tality. Being a man of action, he made what use he could of the child ; he made him a camel-driver, and it was in this capacity that Mahomet, between the age of ten and fourteen, made several journeys into Syria and the neighbouring countries.
It is claimed, though without much probability, that in the course of these journeys he made the acquaintance of a Nertorian monk, who taught him the elements of Christianity. He was then twenty-five years of age He felt his position so humiliating that he accepted a job as assistant to a travelling cloth merchant named Saib.
The chances of business led Saib and his new man to Hayacha, an important market to the south of Mecca; there Mahomet made the acquaintance of a rich widow, Khadija, who was engaged in the caravan trade.
He entered her service, first as camel-driver, then as manager, and finally as partner. Khadija was forty, and in a country where feminine beauty fades so early she might have been considered an old woman ; still, passion was not yet extinct in her heart.
Like all neurotic subjects, Mahomet submitted to the influence of his surroundings and of circum- stances ; poverty had made him timid and taciturn ; prosperity gave him back his assurance, and an active life his vigour. Khadija fell in love with him ; it may have been the last passion of a woman before the inevitable renunciations of old age, or the necessity of taking a second husband to look after her interests.
Mahomet, who had known the hard school of poverty, did not reject the opportunity that chance, had thrown in his way; he married Khadija. He married her more from gratitude than from love ; possibly interest may have had some share in his decision. He devoted his energy and his intelligence to the development of his business. For ten years he led the rough and spacious life of a caravan leader. At thirty-five he was a rich man.
He was at that time a fine strong fellow, hardened by misfortune, softened by experience, educated by travel and association with his fellow men, believing in his star, sure of his own ability and parts. He had black hair, smooth cheeks and a neck like that of a silver urn. In his young days he had been offended by the ostentatious way in which the Meccans lived; he was careful not to fall into the same snare. They on their part held him in but light esteem ; they had known him when he was poor, and they grudged him his rapid rise to fortune, accomplished without any assistance from them, by a marriage with an elderly widow, a ridiculous bargain in a country where masculine pride demands young virgins hardly yet veiled; they reproached him for his breakdown on the field of battle; some of them had seen him crying like a woman; in short, they looked upon him as an inferior being.
Every year, during the sacred month of Rhamadan, he withdrew to a mountain near Mecca, Mount Hira, whose caves provided a natural shelter. There in the solemn calm of silence and solitude, he remained whole days in meditation. It is not impossible to imagine the basis of his thoughts : he was certainly not dreaming the grandiose dreams that some historians have alleged.
Islam did not spring all at once from his brain, like Minerva from the brain of Jove; he was not aiming so high nor so far ahead, and if the dim light that glimmered in one corner of his skull has since become a dazzling brilliancy, it has been due to circumstances that the future prophet neither foresaw nor could have foreseen. Devoid of imagination, like most of the Bedouins, it was not of the future that Mahomet was dreaming in his cave on Mount Hira, but of the past and of the present.
He saw once more his youth of wretchedness, of privations and humiliations among the wealthy Meccans, at a time when, alone and poor, he had been obliged to accept the most humble employ- ments in order to keep body and soul together. He thought of the insolent pride of these caravan men, enriched by their boldness and by the renown amongst the idolatrous tribes of the temple of the Kaaba, that Pantheon of pagan divinities.
He thought of the injustice of this barbarous society, where the weak were the victims of the strong. These reflections probably alternated with hallucinations, crises of his nervous temperament, crises that are frequent in a debilitating climate, that in the sultry hours of the day afflict the mind with a torpid gloom, a state of half-sleep conducive to dreams and the seeing of visions.
Another idea would be haunting his mind; the Jews, propagating their Messianic traditions, were announcing the coming appearance of a prophet who would re-establish the reign of justice. These traditions had found some credit among the Bedouins, especially at Yathreb, and Mahomet, desirous of playing a role, above all desirous of avenging the humiliations, he had suffered in times past, was perhaps led in a period of hallucination to believe himself to be this predestined man, this messenger from God.
The second disciple of the new prophet was Zaid, his slave ; but a slave is certainly obliged to obey his master. The third disciple was Ali, the son of Abu-Taleb, a youth of sixteen, of an enthusiastic temperament who later on was to show a pronounced taste for adventure.
Ali was the Don Quixote of Islam. After all, these three conversions Were hardly likely to draw the crowd by their example ; neverthe- less, Mahomet tried to convert his fellow-citizens. His efforts were received with laughter and low jokes, but he was pot discouraged.
In his desire to play a bold stroke, he gave a banquet to forty notables of the Koreich tribe, and there, with great eloquence, he expounded his doctrine : The worship of idols is only a lie; the coarse images of wood and stone at the Kaaba are nothing but vain simulacra, without consciousness and without power.
There is but one God who has created the world and man. He, Mahomet, was the Prophet, the Messenger of this one God. That is the true faith ; outside this all is error. Were the men of the Koreich ready to support this doctrine? If they were, their salvation was assured; if not, they would come to make acquaintance with the torments of burning Gehenna. Ali, alone of all those present, in obedience to his generous temperament, declared himself ready to defend the new belief. The others went into fits of laughter and made sarcastic replies to the summons of which they were the object.
A prophet! Their laughter turned to indigna- tion; from laughing at this dreamer they came to look upon him as a traitor. Abu-Taleb, faithful to family clanship, could not forget that this erring soul was of his own blood, and tried by wise counsels to divert him from his ridiculous project; he advised him if he would not give up his ideas, at least to keep them to himself. Mahomet wept, but refused to renounce what he regarded as the true faith. Realiz- ing that he was not making any progress with the Koreich, he addressed himself to the strangers who frequented Mecca.
He found complaisant listeners among the men of Yathreb, of whom some even promised him their support, and that for two reasons ; first, because the Jewish propaganda had accustomed them to the idea of one God and to the idea of a prophet sent by that God; then and especially, because the new faith vexed the people of Mecca, and struck a blow at the renown of the temple of the Kaaba.
Mahomet, hated as he was at Mecca, became a valuable asset for Yathreb. These negotiations did not escape the notice of the Koreich, but added fuel to their hatred. Mahomet became in their eyes an enemy, a traitor to the most sacred obligations of family solidarity, a renegade who was deserting his tribe to come to terms with their bitterest enemies.
The mob rose in riot against this wretch who attempted to interfere with his fellow men in the free enjoyment of their life ; their hatred increasing, he was denounced as an enemy of religion, an abominable blasphemer; he was made an outlaw, together with those who shared his views ; and, but for the influence of Abu- OP THE MUSULMAN 53 Taleb, he would have been killed.
He realized the danger and fled. For months he lived out of Mecca, in the caves of Mount Hira, carrying on his propaganda among the caravans who passed within reach. During this time, Abu-Taleb, who believed his nephew to be out of his mind, made use of his authority to try and appease the anger against him. It was a difficult task; however, in , he obtained the removal of the interdict that had been passed upon Mahomet, who was thus at liberty to re-enter Mecca.
By the advice of his uncle he was more prudent, but Abu-Taleb died in the same year and Khadija soon afterwards Left thus alone, Mahomet carried on his propaganda; but convinced that he had nothing to expect from the Meccans, he had an interview with the men of Yathreb, who had made overtures to him Lengthy negotiations followed ; the Prophet hesitated : to come to an understanding with Yathreb would be in the eyes of Mecca the worst of treasons ; the desire of success carried him away, and he finally came to a decision in the course of a meeting that took place on Mount Aeaba Your blood is my blood ; your ruin shall be mine.
I am from this moment your friend and the enemy of your foes. When the Meccans learnt of this agreement their fury knew no bounds. This time there was no one to protect Mahomet; Abu-Taleb was dead. They resolved to rid themselves of the traitor. Each of the tribes of Mecca and its allies named a judge : there were forty of them.
Mahomet was not the man to face this danger ; he fled with his followers, Zaid, Ali, Abu-Bekr, his new father-in-law, Othman, his son-in-law, and Omar. This was the Hegira, of date September, From that day, Yathreb became the city of the Prophet, Medinet-el-Nebi, which has been corrupted into Medina.
It is with this flight to Medina that Islam commences. If the men of Medina had refused to receive him it would have been all up with the new religion; it would have remained the project of an idle dream. Left to the Meccans who would certainly have put him to death, the Prophet would not have been able to realize his work.
Islam, therefore, owes its birth to the hostility between Mecca and Medina. Its first manifestations were acts of hostility against Mecca, and the adhesion of Yathreb to the new faith was inspired by policy rather than religion. Mahomet was received at Medina with sympathy because he was the enemy of Mecca ; but, when the first moment of enthusiasm had passed, this popula- tion of shopkeepers and husbandmen called upon him to fulfil his promises.
In fact, they had done what they thought was a good stroke of business; they were bent on ruining the rival city so that they might come into its prosperity. Mahomet was to carry it out. First of all he built a Mosque ; in opposition to the Meccan temple of the Kaaba he built a temple at Medina. In plunging into warlike adventures he obeyed two motives : first, to satisfy the Medinans, and, secondly, to get himself out of a difficult situation.
He was very much discussed. The Meccans not having been able to get rid of him by murder, tried to blacken his character; they had emissaries in Medina itself, charged to undermine his rising influence, to hold him up to ridicule, to show that he was just a man like any other, subject to the same weaknesses, the same passions, and above all, incapable of working miracles. His enemies pressed him with insidious questions; they called upon him to prove the truth of his mission : if God Almighty was with him, why did He not intervene in his favour?
His slightest actions were examined; his public life, commented upon by everyone, must not show any inconsistency. To escape from these worries, he decided upon action. War satisfied at the same time the lust for booty of those who saw in the affair merely an opportunity for pillage and the generohs passion of the true believers, burning to impose their faith on the infidel. Warlike successes were, moreover, the only miraculous proof the Prophet could offer of the divine protection.
It was a success : at Beder his followers defeated six hundred Meccans. This victory confirmed his prestige, but it had the drawback of exciting the ardour and ambition of the Medinans. A second affair enabled the Koreich to take their revenge at Mount Ohod.
Mahomet, to please his followers and to satisfy his own resentment, would willingly have continued the struggle against Mecca; he had his own vengeance to wreak upon the insolent Koreich who had mocked him and driven him out, but the reverse at Ohod revealed the danger of any such enterprise. The Meccans were fighting men; the Medinans on the contrary were only shopkeepers and agriculturalists. To carry on hostilities against these powerful enemies was to risk an irreparable check.
It was important then in order not to abandon all action, to seek some less redoubtable antagonists, for instance, the Jewish tribes. This explains the successive attacks on the Cainoca, the Lalyan and the Mostelik. There were fine opportunities for looting ; the beaten Jews were driven out and their goods were divided among the Bedouins. It was in the exaltation produced by these easy triumphs that Mahomet, playing the bold game, sent threatening messages to Chosroes II.
In doing this he did not run any great risk, seeing that these sovereigns were not particularly anxious to interfere with a country bare of all resources. Mahomet could now contemplate attacking Mecca. His expedition, organized in secret, was perfectly successful.
On the 12th of January, , Mecca fell into the hands of the Musulmans. The Meccans witnessed in silence the destruction of the idols in their temple, the true Pantheon of Arabia, which then contained three hundred and sixty divinities worshipped by as many tribes ; and, with rage in their hearts, they recognized in Mahomet the messenger from God, whilst inwardly promising themselves to be avenged some day on these rustics, these Jews of Medina who had had the audacity to beat them.
It was thus that Abu-Sofian, the indomitable Koreichite, who had led the engagement at Ohod against Mahomet, now made his submission, and gave his son Maowiah to the Prophet as secretary. This example of adroit diplomacy was followed by the majority of the Meccan notables. But the rivalry between Medina and Mecca was not extinguished.
It will be met with again, for it dominates the whole of Musulman history. For his part, Mahomet, wishing to increase the number of his adherents, did not take any unfair advantage of his victory. Contrary to the wishes of the Medinans, he did nothing to impair the religious prestige of his native city. The Kaaba, by a process not unknown else- where, became the temple of the one true God.
The taking of Mecca established the success of the Prophet. Those scattered tribes who had remained hostile or indifferent made their sub- mission in the course of the following years. About a. To commemorate his triumph by a cere- mony that would strike the imagination, Mahomet made a solemn pilgrimage to Mecca, in More than forty thousand Musulmans accompanied him. After the customary devotions— pagan devotions that he took over on account of Islam — he ascended Mount Arafat and harangued the crowd.
He imposed himself by force rather than by persuasion. It is possible that his preaching may have had some effect on the unsophisticated Bedouins, and that it may have seemed to them like an expres- sion of the divine will ; but it is quite evident that his immediate entourage did not take his Messianic role seriously. Many of these followers, especially those most recently converted, seem to have been actuated by the desire to exploit his influence ; but very few of them looked upon him as a prophet.
Their scepticism is shown by the attitude of some of them towards him. His secretary, Abd-Allah, who took down the divine revelations from his dictation, did not hesitate to alter their meaning so as to be able to make fun of them amongst his friends. He carried his facetiousness so far that Mahomet was obliged to dismiss him. It is notorious that one of his favourite wives, Aisha, deceived him; causing a scandal that the Prophet could only silence by a declaration which he claimed to be inspired by God, but which deceived nobody.
We know that in the course of a discussion a certain Okba spat in his face and nearly strangled him. We know also that a Jew of Kha'ibar, whom Mahomet was endeavouring to conciliate, tried to poison him. These are sufficient indications to lead us to suppose that the Prophet did not inspire among his contemporaries those sentiments of admiration and respect of which we find the expression in writings subsequent to his decease.
The Bedouin had not imagination enough to weave a legend round Mahomet. It was the Islamized foreigners, Syrians, Persians and Egyptians who created this legend and who, passing the history of the Prophet through the mill of their imagination, embellished it to the point of making of it a sort of mystical romance. Lacking the gift of imagination, the Bedouin copies, and in copying he distorts the original. Thus Musulman law is only the Roman Code revised and corrected by Arabs ; in the same way Musulman science is nothing but Greek science interpreted by the Arab brain; and again, Musulman architecture is merely a distorted imitation of the Byzantine style.
It may be asked how it was that Christianity, which had its adherents in Arabia, did not develop there as it did elsewhere. Mahomet simpli- fied Christianity, or rather, for he did not go about it consciously with any preconceived plan, he distorted it without meaning to do so, by interpreting it so far as it was possible for an Arab brain to interpret it.. He has borrowed from it all that did not clash with the ideas and customs of the Bedouins : the unity of God, the mission of the Prophet, the immortality of the soul.
The Arabs had long been prepared for the conception of a one and only God, an ancient Sabean belief. It appears, moreover, that the temple of the Kaaba counted among its numerous idols one more powerful or more celebrated than the others — Ilah, 1 which might 'be compared to the Hebrew Eloah. They were also prepared for the notion of a prophet by the Messianic traditions of the Jews and Christians. As to the idea of the immortality of the soul, the worship of ancestors leads logically to it.
Mahomet rejected as abominable errors what he himself could not understand, or what would have been incompre- hensible to the Arab brain, or would have clashed with the customs of the Bedouins, The result was a strange medley of beliefs.
The angels are divine messengers, but they are mortal and will come to life again, like other creatures, at the last day of judgment. The Jews, by denying the heavenly mission of Christ, have incurred the male- diction of the Almighty. The Christians have gone astray in inventing dogmas that have not been revealed ; but the faithful of both religions can attain salvation, since they admit the two cardinal principles — the unity of God and the last judgment.
The pains of Hell are eternal or not, according to the will of the Almighty. There is a Purgatory. God rules the world absolutely, and in the humblest details; he has regulated everything in advance, but is able to modify his decisions. II, v. XIX, v. IV, y. II, y. IV, v. He was a party leader, struggling to impose his influence ; success in his eyes had no other consecra- tion than material supremacy.
To arrive at his ends he relied mainly upon force. Those whom he wished to convince he treated with fire and sword. Believe or be a slave! Moses fought against the evil instincts of his people, he branded their vices, he was an austere moral judge. One and all of these great teachers expected success and the spread- ing of their doctrines to come only from persuasion ; they did not dream of having recourse to force.
Mahomet did not trouble himself with such considerations; he did not combat the evil instincts of his people ; he exploited them and from policy he compromised with them. Thus he tolerated poly- gamy : more than that, he practised it himself. He knew nothing of the neighbour, such as Jesus had conceived him.
For tribal clanship hq substituted Musulman solidarity; the neighbour was exclusively the Musulman, that is to say, his partisan. He recognized slavery, concubinage and the lex talionis. It is in its methods of propaganda that one sees the real spirit of Islam.
The latter have often been successful because they did their best to deal gently with the evil passions of the negroes; they were willing to tolerate pagan practices, and were satisfied with the mere profession of the Koranic faith. They impressed upon the native chiefs as advantages of their faith that it accepted polygamy, concubinage and slavery. Entry to the Musulman paradise is not obtained as the reward of a virtuous life ; it is enough for the most hardened sinner to pronounce with his dying breath the profession of faith — the Chahada — to be admitted to the abode of the elect.
This incommensurable Being, before whom all creatures are reduced to the same level of inertia and passivity, knows no other rule, no other restraint but his sole and absolute will. Acts regarded by man as good or bad become in reality all the same ; they have no other value than that attributed to them by the arbitrary will of the Almighty. This is the annihilation of all morality.
Note that, with the Musulmans, prayer is rather an act of adoration and of devotion than a request addressed to the Almighty, Who knows our legitimate needs without our pointing them out to Him. Second, fasting during the sacred month of Rhamadan ; this again is a Sabean custom.
The Djihad is a duty; the world being divided into two parts, Musulmans and non-Musul- mans, the Dar el Islam, or land of Islam, and the Dar el Harb, or land of war. Fight the infidels until there shall he none left. The orthodox interpreters have, moreover, settled this point with particular care : The true believer must never cease to fight those who do not think as he does, except when he is not the stronger party.
This mixture of pagan customs, Sabean practices, and doctrines borrowed from Christianity shows the eclectic character of Islam, or rather of the Koran ; for it is desirable to establish a distinction between the Koran and Islam. The Koran is animated by a certain spirit of tolerance; Islam, on the contrary, has become an intolerant religion that admits no idea from the outer world, not even such as are outside the purely denominational sphere.
The Koran is not the work of a sectarian blinded by narrow prejudice; it is the work of a politician anxious to draw to himself by all possible means the greatest number of adherents. According to the circumstances, Mahomet flatters, promises or threatens ; but the flattery and the promises are more frequent than the threats.
The reason is obvious : he is striving to establish his doctrine; he therefore does his best to make it seductive by accepting now the prejudices of one party, and now the customs of another. He makes no frontal attacks upon received ideas or inveterate habits; he includes them bodily in his doctrine, softening them down when they do not please him.
It was thus that he handled the Christians, the Jews, and the Sabeans because they were numerous in Arabia. Only enter into discussion with Jews and Christians in sincere and moderate terms In the same way, he seeks to make himself the champion of women, of whom he speaks always with benevolence, and whose position he tried to ameliorate. Mahomet gave women the right to inherit and often insisted in their favour. He also tried to win over the slaves by making their enfranchisement easier and by recommending it as a meritorious action.
He laid down that a slave who conceives to her master thereby acquires her free- dom, and that the son of a slave by a freeman is free. Like him, Mahomet does not trouble about the quality of his supporters, but their number; and to secure their votes he is ready to make any concessions; he shuts his eyes to divergences of opinion, and moderates his requirements. So, in order not to clash with Arab customs, he accepts polygamy, but he tempers it by limiting the number of wives to four, and by improving the position of the wife and of the children.
In the same way he accepts circumcision, slavery, the sacred month of fasting, the pilgrimage to Mecca, the worship paid to the stone at the Kaaba, all of them rites of Arab paganism. The same desire to please is found in the picture he paints of the paradise promised to the elect ; x it is such an ideal as a Bedouin would form in his mind : shade, cool springs, charming women who do not grow old ; it is a catalogue of what the nomad finds in an oasis on returning from his wanderings in the desert.
The singing-girls do not grow old, or at least one does not see them aging, because they abandon their profession as soon as age renders them less desirable. As an able politician, Mahomet handles all with tact and tries to please everybody.
He only imposes one condition : acceptance of Islam and the recog- nition of his divine mission. There are two of these conceptions that dominate all Islam and which have exercised considerable influence over Mus ulman peoples.
The first is the extension to all true believers of the spirit of solidarity which animates the members of the same tribe. Among the Bedouins the social horizon stops at the tribe; his neighbour is a man qf the same tribe, a relation, a cousin in some degree. Outside the tribe he has no neighbour, and therefore no social obligations. In proclaiming the brotherhood of all his adherents, Mahomet succeeded in making of Islam a closely united family, and of creating between the individual members sentiments of clanship of which we can observe the power at the present day.
The tribe, it is true, did not always forget their ancient rivalries, especially during the first centuries of Islam; and Moslem history abounds in incidents provoked by family antagonism; but, with time, hatreds and misunderstandings were toned down, and if at certain periods of the splendour of the Empire of the Caliphs the tribes, having no outside enemy to combat, gave free rein to their independent spirit, it is no less true that, as soon as Islam was menaced, they remembered their religious brotherhood and formed a united front against the common enemy.
And we see how at the present time every blow struck against the freedom of any Musulman people sends a tremor at once through the whole of Islam. This solidarity was a great attraction for the conquered nations, and it was the desire to profit by it that brought over most of the recruits to Islam. The peremptory duty imposed upon the Believer to visit the Holy City at least once in his life has contributed in the greatest measure to maintain the unity of belief throughout Islam, as well as the sentiment of religious brother- hood.
Every year, around the temple of the Kaaba, representatives of every portion of the Musulman world, from India to Morocco, meet, mix together, live in intimate association, performing side by side the same rites, the same practices, and communicating in the same ideal. All divergence of opinion, all nascent heresy, are immediately swept away by the great breath of unity that passes over these people prostrate in adoration of the same idea.
He frequently insists upon this point : the Musulman should not suffer for his beliefs. If he is the stronger, he ought to impose them, but if he finds himself too weak to resist with any prospect of success, he must submit for the time being to every foreign law that is forced upon him by violence.
According to a fundamental precept of Islamic law, the dogma of constraint, his powerlessness takes from his conduct all blameable character. He makes a semblance of yielding, but preserves intact in his heart his faith and his ideas. Whatever his attitude, the Musulman never ceases to be a Musulman; but as soon as the power that renders the constraint effective ceases, he must immediately throw off the law imposed upon him, under penalty of incurring eternal punishment.
By the dogma of constraint, the Musulman is protected from all violence. Whatever the circum- stances and the vicissitudes, his conscience remains intact. Under the threat of force he can bind himself by the most solemn oaths, but they are mere empty words.
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