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THE BIOGRAPHY OF MAHOMET, AND RISE OF ISLAM.
CHAPTER THIRD.

The Belief of Mahomet in his own Inspiration.

Mahomet, agitated by spiritual anxiety, gives vent to his thoughts in fragments or poetry

OUR sketch of the life of Mahomet has now reached a point when anxious yearnings after religious truth were springing up within him; and the mind, brooding over the gross superstition and abject worldliness of the inhabitants of Mecca, and bewildered by its own speculations amidst the uncertain flickerings of spiritual light ever and anon flashing around, began to unburden itself in fragments of wild and impassioned poetry. Such rhapsodies often assume the character of soliloquies, full of melancholy reflection upon the state and prospects of mankind; sometimes fraught with burning words and imagery of terror, they seem intended as a warning or admonition to neighbours and fellow citizens; at times, again, they exhibit a mind intent upon itself oppressed by perplexity and distress, and seeking for comfort and assurance by fleeing to its Maker.

Such fragments only partially preserved in the Coran

It seems probable that such fragments were frequent and numerous But few of them remain


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to us. They did not fit in with the subsequent theory, which holds every word of the Coran as a message emanating directly from God; and it is probable that the more remarkable of them, imprinted indelibly on the hearts of those who shared in the early enquiries of Mahomet; have alone found a place in his Revelation. It is thus that in the whole Coran we find only eighteen Suras, which can with any likelihood be assigned to this period of his life. To trace the development of spiritual conception and religious belief in the mind of Mahomet, it is necessary that copious extracts from these be laid before the reader.1

Specimens of these fragments

Of the soliloquies, the subjoined Sura is a specimen.

1 In an Appendix to this volume, I have endeavoured to arrange the Suras of the Coran in the probable order in which they were composed, or produced, by Mahomet. Any such arrangement can, however, be only approximate; because, as explained in the first chapter of the Introduction, the chronology of the several Suras is to be gathered alone from the subject matter, from internal intimations of style, and from references to passing events. The earlier Suras are generally composed each of a single short piece, delivered all at once, and are therefore in this respect more easily classified than the later Suras, which are made up of fragments given forth on various occasions. As they advance in time, the Suras gradually become longer; but they have been arranged in the present Coran in an order the reverse of this, the longest being generally placed first and the shortest last. Hence it is that the casual reader of the Coran, by perusing it in its present inverted order, can form no correct conception of the origin and development of Mahomet's system.


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Sura ci.

That which striketh! What is it which striketh?
And what shall certify thee what THE STRIKING meaneth?
On that day Mankind shall be like unto Moths scattered abroad.2 And the Mountains shall be like unto Wool of divers colours carded.
Then truly, whosesoever Balances are heavy3, he shall enter into a life of Happiness;
And whosesoever Balances are light, to him verily appertaineth the Pit.
And what shall certifify thee what the PIT meaneth? A raging FIRE!

Of the following verses, some are represented as pronounced directly by the Deity, but probably as yet only by poetical fiction.

Sura xcv.

I swear by the Fig and Olive,
By Mount Sinai, and by this inviolate Territory!
That We verily created Man of a most excellent Structure,
Then We rendered him the lowest of the low ;-
Excepting such as believe and do the things that are right;
For unto them shall be given a Reward that fadeth not away.
Then, what shall cause thee after this to deny the Reckoning?
What! is not God the most righteous of all Judges?

Warning and expostulation

The voice of expostulation and alarm was raised in accents such as these: -

Sura civ.

Woe unto the Backbiter and Defamer ; -
Unto him that heapeth up Riches, and numbereth them for the Future!
He thinketh surely that his Wealth shall be with him for ever.
Nay! for verily he shall be cast into the crushing Fire;
And what shall cause thee to know what the CRUSHING FIRE is ?

2 i.e. with good deeds.


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The Fire of GOD kindled,
Which shall mount above thine Hearts;
It shall verily rise above them as a Covering,
Stretched upon lofty Columns.

The 92nd Sura, after a variety of wild and incoherent oaths, proceeds thus:-

Sura xcii

Verily it is OUR part to give Direction,
And unto us belongeth the Future and the Past.
Wherefore, I warn you of the Fire which breaketh into Flame;
There shall not be cant therein but the most Wretched,-
He that rejected the Truth, and turned his back.
But whoso greatly feareth the Lord shall escape therefrom,-
He that giveth of his Wealth to purify Ms Soul withal ;
And who offereth not his Favours unto any with the hope of any recompense,
Except the recompense of seeking the Face or his Lord Most High;
And surely he shall be satisfied.

Rhyming style

The rhyming style adopted by Mahomet, even in his earliest compositions, will perhaps be illustrated by the following Sura. Each verse ends with the syllable ha 3, and the corresponding word is indicated by italics.

Sura xci

By the Sun and hi; early splendour!
fly the Moon when she followeth him!
By the Day when it showeth its glory!
By the Night when it covereth the same!
By the Heavens and Him that made them!
ISy the Earth and Him that spread it forth !
By the Soul and him that framed it,
And inspired it with its Wickedness and its Virtue!

3 The feminine pronoun of the third person.


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Verily he is blessed that purifieth the same;
And he is wretched that corrupteth the same.
The Thamudites rejected the message of the Lord in their impiety;
When the most abandoned among them arose.
(Now the Prophet 5 of the Lord had said unto them, "It is the she-camel of the Lord; Give ye drink unto her;")
But they rejected him, and cut her in pieces;
Wherefore the Lord overthrew them in their iniquities, and rendered unto them a recompense equal with their Sin;
And HE feareth not the issue thereof

Arab and Jewish legend

Arab and Allusion is sometimes made, though in a very brief and vague form, both to Arab and Jewish. Thus in the 89th Sura: -

Sura lxxxix

What I hast thou not seen how thy Lord dealt with the children of AD,
The Iremites possessed of pillars
The like have not been builded in any City! -
And with the THAMUDITES which hewed out the Rock in the Valley;-
And with PHARAOH that used the Stakes?
These all behaved insolently in the Earth,
And multiplied Wickedness therein;
Wherefore thy Lord poured upon them the mingled Cup of his Wrath,
Verily thy Lord is upon His Watch-tower, &c.

Sura cv. and cvi.

And there was not wanting special appeal to national considerations. The 105th Sura, which recounts God's mercies to the Meccans in the overthrow of Abraha and preservation of their city, belongs probably to this period. And also the following:-

4 The feminine pronoun of the third person.Salih, the prophet of the Thamudites.


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For the stirring up of the Coreish;-
The stirring of them up unto the Winter and Summer expeditions (of merchandise.)
And let them worship the Lord of this House,
He that bath provided them with food against Hunger,
And bath granted them immunity from Fear.6

Sura xc. "the two Paths"

In elucidation of Mahomet's honest striving after Truth at this time, another Sara may be quoted in which the two paths of Virtue and Vice, and the difficulties of the straight way, are set forth:

Sura XC.

Verily I swear by this Territory,
(And thou art a resident7 of this Territory;)
By the Begetter, and by that which is begotten?
Surely we have created Man in Trouble.
Ah I doth he think indeed that no one hath power over him?
He saith ,-" I have wasted much wealth."
Ah! doth he think that no one seeth him?
What? Have WE not made him two Eyes and two Lips;
And guided him unto the TWO ROADS.
Yet he applieth himself not unto the Ascent;-
And what shall cause thee to know what thet ASCENT is ?-----
Freeing the Captive,
And giving Food in the day of Want
To the orphan that is near of kin,
Or to the Poor that lieth in the Dust;-

5 The feminine pronoun of the third person. In allusion to the inviolability of the sacred territory from foreign attack.

6 Abd al Cadir, the Urdu translator of the Coran, renders this as signifying that Mahomet was "free," i.e. from the obligation of holding the Meccan Territory inviolable, and therefore not blameable for invading it in after days with an army!


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Further, the Righteous must be of those that believe, and stir up one another unto Stedfastness and Compassion.
These are the heirs of Blessedness.
But they who deny Our Sign., shall be the heirs of Wretchedness;
Around them the Fire shall close.

Mahomet's first religious poetry

It is highly probable that Mahomet occupied himself with such thoughts, and gave vent to his feelings in language similar to the above quotations, for several years before he assumed the office of a divine teacher. The early Suras, and we may suppose many other reflective and didactic pieces not preserved, because not purporting to proceed as inspired from God, would be recorded by the aged Waraca, by Ali who was still a boy, and possibly by Khadija herself7 or by some member of her family which, as we have seen, contained persons

His first followers

enquiring after the true religion, and more or less acquainted with Judaism and Christianity. The friends and some of the relatives of Mahomet listened with reverence to his admonitions, and sought to follow his injunctions as those of a faithful teacher guided haply by the Spirit of God. Khadija his loving wife, Zeid and Ali his adopted sons, and perhaps Abu Bakr his bosom friend, with

7 Tabari informs us that when Mohammad first entered on his office, even his wife Khadija had read the Scriptures and was acquainted with flit history of tire prophets." Sprenger, p. 100. But this is from the Persian translation of Tabari, and does not appear in the original Arabic copy. The words are:-


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Waraca who saw in his first teaching the counterpart of his own ideas, were amongst the earliest of his disciples.

Makes no impression on his fellow citizens generally,

But without this little circle, Superstition and the World held undisputed sway, and expostulation was met by a gross and repellent darkness. The kind and generous Abu Talib smiled at the enthusiasm of his nephew. Abu Lahab, another uncle, mocked and insulted him. Abu Jahl and his party sneered. The great body of the Coreish were careless and indifferent. As Mahomet passed by the knots that clustered about the Kaaba discussing the events of the day, they would point disdainfully at him as a half-witted creature.

Necessity and likelihood of a divine commission

The more susceptible amongst the citizens listened, perhaps, at first with attention. But when pressed to practical and decisive steps, they would answer; - - 'It is well for Jews and Christians - to follow the purer faith thou speakest of. They, we know, have had prophets bringing them a message of the will of God. Let us be content with the light our Maker hath given unto us, and remain as we are. If a Prophet had been sent, unto us, we should no doubt have followed his directions, and been equally devout and spiritual in our worship as the Jews and Christians8." - Mahomet felt the force of such a

8 Sura xxxv. 42. Mahomet there quotes this statement as showing that his people had at first declared their willingness to follow a prophet, if he were only sent to them; but that now a Prophet had been Bent, they disbelieved him and broke VOL. II.


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reply, for it was in unison with hidden thoughts, ever present yet undeveloped in his heart. Would the merciful God be unmindful of the appeal thus virtually made to Him for guidance? The appeal itself might perhaps in reality be a divine intimation requiring him to furnish that direction so urgently needed, and so sincerely desired. And, again, whence this rush of inspiration regarding the Unity and providence of God, and a future recompense in Heaven and Hell? Whence the ecstatic moments, the flow of burning thoughts, the spontaneous burst of eloquence and heavenly speech, which gave form and substance to the long conceived yearnings of his heart, and transformed them as it were into the words of God himself? Could the Prophets of old have had a more convincing test of their inspiration? What if all this formed a supernatural call, a divine Mission?

Supposed process by which the conviction that he was to be the messenger of God gained ground

Thus by degrees he was led on to believe that God had called him to preach reformation to his countrymen. But was he authorized further to use

their promise. Such notices are frequent in the Coran, and the pretext assigned in the text, was, no doubt, one of the earliest which Mahomet had to answer.

Compare Sura vi. 155-157. "And this Book We have sent down, - blessed - wherefore follow it and fear God that ye may find mercy. Lest ye should say; - Verily the Scripture hath been revealed to the Peoples before us, but we are unable to read in their language. Or lest ye should say, ---- if the Scriptures had been revealed to us, we surely would have followed the direction better than they. And verily a clear exposition hath come unto you from your Lord,---- a direction and mercy," &c.


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the name of the Lord, and to recite his warnings threats and promises as words of inspiration? It ground, would surely be to abandon his position if he stood forth as a Messenger from God to reclaim the Meccans to Himself and yet brought no message from Him that sent him. The work was evidently of God; why then question that these welling thoughts and living words were intended by God as His commands? And, ever and anon, the rising doubt would be quelled by a glance at the end. For the glorious object of converting his people, could there be any thing wrong in the only suitable means? Nay, this strange mental struggle itself seemed but the first bursting forth of inspiration. Would he dare to stay the divine emotion, repress the work within, and fight against the Lord himself? Why should he hesitate to take the name of God upon his lips, go forth boldly as his Legate, and trust that the same spirit which had guided Jewish and Christian prophets would put words into his mouth? The God that overrules all nature even to the minutest movements of the brute creation, without whom not a leaf falls to the ground, - He would not suffer these mental longings to miss the aim for which they were destined. Into His hands, then, he would commit himself and, secure in the singleness of his object, the glory of God and the good of his fellows, he would go forth speaking His words.

Mental depression and grounds of re-assurance

While absorbed by reflections such as these, depression and grounds of Mahomet


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at seasons suffered grievous mental distraction. To this period may be attributed the Suras in which, after deep depression, lie sought to re-assure his soul by remembering the past favours of the Almighty.

Sura xciii.

By the rising Sunshine!
By the Night when it darkeneth!
Thy Lord bath not removed from thee, neither bath He been displeased.
And verily the Future shall be better unto thee than the Past.
Thy Lord shall shortly dispense unto thee a Gift; and thou shalt be satisfied.
What I Did He not find thee an Orphan, and give thee a Home?
And found thee astray, and directed that?
Now, therefore, as touching the Orphan, do not oppress him;
And as touching him that asketh of thee, repulse him not;
Arid as touching the Favours of thy Lord, rehearse them.

Sura xciv.

What! Have we not opened for thee thy Breast?
And taken off from thee thy Burden,-
That which galled thy flack;
And exalted the Mention of thee?
Then truly with the Difficulty, there shall be Ease.
Verily with the Difficulty, there shall be Ease
And when thou art set at liberty then labour,
And towards thy Lord raise thy Desire.

The following Sura refers to the taunts of those who reproached him with the death of his sons, as a mark of God's displeasure.

Sura cviii

Surely We have given unto thee an Abundance;
Wherefore offer unto the Lord thy prayer, and sacrifice unto him.
Verily whose hateth thee shall be childless.


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Seeks to commit suicide

Notwithstanding such consolations, his distress was sometimes insupportable, and - he repeatedly meditated suicide. What if all this were but the simulation of Divine impulse, the stirrings of the Evil One and his emissaries? Was any crime so awful as to forge the name and authority of GOD? Rather than expose himself to a risk so terrible, he would at once anticipate the possibility by casting himself headlong from one of these wild cliffs. An invisible influence appeared to hold him back9. Was it a divine influence? Or might it also not be diabolical?

Resuscitation or the belief in his divine mission, mingled with ambition

But the old train of reasoning would again revive in his heart stronger than ever. And now, when fully surrendered to it, bright visions of a united people abjuring their gross idolatry, would rise before him.-" And I, thus acknowledged their Prophet, why should I not be also their Leader and their Chief? Yes, Faith and Piety shall reign throughout Arabia; and, if need be, the Sword shall be bared to compel men to enter into the Kingdom of God; -

When the help of the Lord shall come and Victory,
And thou shalt see Men entering into the Faith of God in multitudes,
Then celebrate His Praise, and ask Pardon of Hifli, for He is forgiving10."

Moses led forth his people, and so did other Jewish

9 Katib al Wackidi, p. 37 ; Tabari, pp. 90, 96.

10 Sura cx.


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Chieftains, to do battle for the Lord against the Idolaters- And why ,should not I, the Vicegerent of God, do likewise; and bring all Arabia in godly submission prostrate at His feet? It will surely be for His glory and for the furtherance of His Kingdom. Then, what vain abominations are wrought within the cities of Syria, Greece, and Rome; they have set up the Queen of Heaven, and burned incense unto her! But they, too, will listen to the voice of reason recalling them to the worship of God and setting forth his Unity. They have a Revelation, and profess to obey it. I will show to them from their own Book that they have corrupted and obscured the Truth. And Egypt, Persia, Abyssinia, Hira ,- all around, why should I not dash to the ground the Idols, and every thing that exalteth itself against the True God ; - if only my people will be convinced and rally around me to fight the battles of the Lord. Doth not the whole world, Jew and Christian, weary of strife and discord, yearn for a Prophet who shall restore unity and peace? Will not all, then, flock to my Standard when I proclaim myself that which I surely feel myself to be, - the Prophet of' the Lord11?" Such conceptions at this time were, it may be, faint and dim, but there is little doubt that they

11 See Hashimi pp. 136, 166, and 290. Katib al Wackidi p. 38 1/2; Tabari, p. 122. Mahomet is there represented at a very early stage assuring the Coreish that, if they would only be converted to his faith, they would conquer, not Arabia alone, but all the surrounding nations.


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Actually existed in the mind of Mahomet. It is probable that they formed the evil and delusive element which, first mingling itself with the pure longing after Truth, led to the fatal and fearful error of speaking falsely and without commission in the name of God. AMBITION, once admitted, opened an easy breach for the temptations of the world, if not also for the suggestions of the Evil One. Yet Ambition may have been so subtilely mingled with spiritual aspirations, that happily it escaped the observation of Mahomet himself.

At this crisis, the fate of Mahomet and of Islam trembled in the balance. It was his hour of trial, and he fell.

Mahomet remains in expectation of a Divine commission.

On the one hand, he was surrounded by a little knot of believing adherents. Spiritual truth seemed to shine, clear and radiant as a sunbeam, upon his own heart; ecstatic trances impressed a seal, apparently divine, upon his convictions; and (though ambition might be lurking) he was conscious of a sincere desire, and fancied that he perceived a divine Commission, to call forth his people from darkness into light. On the other side, the ungodly laughed him to scorn; while his solemn expostulations and warnings were treated, even by the wise and sober, as the effusions of a fond enthusiast. Before a DIVINE COMMISSION all difficulties would, vanish. He would wait then for the inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit to lead him, as it had oft times led the Prophets before him, in the


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right way. Gabriel12, perhaps, would visit him, as he visited Zacharias and Mary, to announce the advent of a new Dispensation.

Vision of Gabriel, who brings the commission to "Recite in the name of God."

He was seated or wandering amidst the peaks of Hira, buried reveries such these, when suddenly an apparition rose before his eyes. The imagination of a heavenly Visitant that had long flitted vaguely before him, was realized in the vision by his excited fancy. It was no other than Gabriel, the Messenger of God, who now appeared in the sky and, approaching within two bows length of the Prophet, brought from his Master this memorable behest;-

Sura XCVI.

RECITE in the name of the Lord who created;-
Created Man from nought but congealed blood;-
RECITE! For thy Lord is beneficent.
It is He who hath taught (to record Revelation) with the Pen;-
Hath taught Man that which he knoweth not.
Nay, verily, Man is rebellious;
Because he seeth himself to abound in Wealth.
Verily, unto thy Lord is the return of all.
Hast thou seen him that holdeth back
The Servant (of God) when he prayeth?

12 It is clear that at a later period at least, if not from the first, Mahomet confounded Gabriel with the Holy Ghost. The idea may have arisen from some such misapprehension as the following. Mary conceived Jesus by the power of the holy Ghost which overshadowed her. But it was Gabriel who visited Mary to announce the conception of the Saviour. The Holy Ghost was, therefore, another name for Gabriel. We need hardly wonder at this ignorance when Mahomet seems to have believed that Christians held Mary to be the third Person in the Trinity!


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What thinkest thou? had he listened to right Direction,
And commanded unto Piety?
Dost thou not see that he hath rejected the Truth and turned his back?
What! Doth he not know that God seeth?
Nay, verily, if he forbear not, Wa shall drag him by the Forelock,-
The lying, sinful Forelock!
Then let him call his company of friends, and We shall call the guards of Hell;
Nay! submit not unto him; but wonhip, and draw nigh unto the Lord.

Mahomet thenceforward assumes the name of God in his Revelations;

Thus was Mahomet, by whatever deceptive process, led to the high blasphemy of forging the name of God, a crime repeatedly stigmatized in the Coran itself as the greatest that mankind can commit. Thenceforward he spoke literally in the name of the Lord. And so scrupulous was he lest there should be in his pseudo-inspiration even the appearance of a human colouring, that every sentence of the Coran, whether of admonition, of warning, of instruction, or of professed actual revelation, is prefaced by the Divine command, ‘SPEAK’ or ‘SAY;’ which, if not expressed, must always be understood. Thus Sura CXII.,-

SAY:- He is GOD alone: GOD the Eternal!
He begetteth not, and He is not begotten;
And there is not any like unto Him.

and becomes the commissioned Prophet of God.

This commission pervaded the entire future course of Mahomet, and mingled with his every action. He was now the Servant, the Prophet, the


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Vicegerent of God; and however much the sphere of action created by this principle might expand in ever widening circles, the principle itself was from the commencement absolute and complete. How far the two ideas of a resolution subjectively formed and involving a spontaneous course of action, and of a divine inspiration objectively imparted and independent of his own will, were at first consciously and simultaneously present, and in what respective degrees, it is difficult to conjecture. But it is certain that the conception of a Divine commission soon took the entire and undivided possession of his soul; and, coloured though it often was by the events and inducements of the day, or mingled with apparently incongruous intentions and desires, retained a paramount influence until the hour of his death. The 96th Sura was, in fact, the starting point of Islam Theologians and Biographers generally hold it to be the first revealed Sura; and Mahomet himself used to refer to it as the commencement of his inspiration13.

13 Several years after, he mentions the vision which he believed himself now to have seen, in the following words:-

Verily it is no other than a Revelation that has been inspired:
One mighty and strong taught it unto him,-
One endued with wisdom; and he stood
In the highest part of the Horizon,
Then he drew near and approached.
And he reached to the distance of two bows' length, or yet nearer:


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The commission slighted by the Meccans.

But the Divine commission was unheeded at Mecca. Scorn and abuse gathered thicker than ever around him. He was taunted as a Poet carried away by wild fancy; as a Magician or a Soothsayer, for his oaths and rhapsodies resembled in style the oracles of such; or as one possessed by Genii and Demons.

The vision and command to preach.

Grieved and dispirited, he fell back upon his commission. Was it a warrant and command to publish his message even to a stiff-necked and rebellious people, or not rather a simple attestation, for himself and his willing adherents alone, that his doctrine was true? Engrossed with these reflections, the Prophet stretched himself upon his carpet, and, wrapping himself in his garments, fell into a trance or vision. The Angel was at hand, and Mahomet was aroused from his despondency to energy and action, by this animating message:

Sura LXXIV.

Oh thou that art covered!
Arise and PREACH!
And magnify thy Lord;
And purify thy Clothes;
And depart from Uncleanness.

And he revealed unto his servant that which he revealed.
The heart did not belie in that which he saw.
What! Will ye then dispute with him concerning that which he saw?

Sura liii. 4-12.

He then alludes to a second vision of Gabriel, which will be referred to below.


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And show not thy Favours, in the hope of self-aggrandisement;
And wait patiently for thy Lord,

Leave me and him whom r have created alone;
On whom I have bestowed abundant Riches,
And Sons dwelling before him;
And disposed his affairs prosperously;-
Yet he desireth that I should add thereto.
Nay! Because he is to Oun Signs an Adversary,
I will afflict him with fierce Calamity;
For he imagined and devised Mischief in his heart.
May he be damned! how he devised;
Again, may he be damned! how he devised!
Then he looked;
Then he frowned and scowled;
Then he turned his back and looked contemptuously:-
And he said, "Verily, this is nothing but Magick that will be wrought;14
Verily, this is no other than the speech of a Mortal"
Now, will I cast him into Hell fire.
And what shall cause thee to know what HELL-FIRE is?
It leaveth not, peither doth it suffer to escape,
Candescent on the Skin.
Over it are nineteen (Angels).15

Nay, by the Moon!
By the Night when it retireth!
By the Morn when it reddeneth!
Verily it is one or the most weighty matters,-
A warning to Mankind,-

14 Alluding to the doctrine of the Resurrection. The re-vivification of dry bones and dust was laughed at as mere magic.

15 At this point is interposed a passage (v. 81) evidently produced many years after, probably at Medina, in reply to certain objections raised as it would appear by the Jews respecting the number of the infernal guard.


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To him amongst you that desireth to advance, or to remain behind.
Every Soul lieth in pledge for that which it hath wrought;-
Excepting the heirs of God's right hand.
In Gardens, they shall enquire concerning the Wicked;-
"What hath cast you into Hell?"
And they shall reply, - "We were not of those that prayed;
And we did not feed the poor;
And we babbled vainly with the vain Babblers;
And we were Rejecters of the Day of reckoning;
Until the Conviction thereof overtook us."

And the intercession of the Interceders shall not avail them.
Then what aileth them that they turn aside from the Admonition;-
As if they were afrighted Asses
Fleeing from a Lion?
And every one of them desireth that expanded Pagea be given unto him.16
Nay! they dread not the Life to come.
Nay! This is a Warning;
And whoso chooseth is warned thereby.
And there shall none be warned but as the Lord pleaseth.
HE is to be feared, and He is the Forgiver:

Vindictive abuse of his opponents.

It has been thought expedient to introduce this Sura nearly entire, not only for the remarkable commission in its opening lines to preach publicly, which forms a new and marked stage in the mission of Mahomet, but as the best means of conveying some idea of the style of revelation adopted by Mahomet about the third or fourth year of his prophetical life. The person so vehemently condemned

16 i.e. that the divine message recorded upon pages should be miraculously brought from above to each objector, in proof of Mahomet's mission.


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is supposed to have been Walid, the honoured Chief of Mecca, who, as mentioned in the preceding chapter, was the first to raise his pick-axe on the rebuilding of the Kaaba. The heart of Mahomet was vindictive; and he dealt, through his Revelation, reproach and condemnation in the severest and most crushing terms against his adversaries. It was thus he cursed Abu Lahab his own uncle, and the father-in-law of two of his daughters, on account of his contemptuous bearing:-

Sura cxi

Damned be ABU LAHAB'S hands; and let himself be damned !
his Riches shall not profit him1 nor that which he hath gained.
lie shall be cast into the FIRE of flame,17
And his Wife also laden with Fuel,
About her Neck shall be a rope of Palm-fibre.18

I refrain however from entering here upon the consequences of the public preaching, and the struggle with idolatry. Our present object is simply to trace the growth of the idea of inspiration and a mission from the Deity in his mind; and this I have attempted to do from the only reliable source--the revelations of Mahomet himself.

17 - a play upon the word Lahab, which signifies flame, as well as his adversary's name.

18 The story is that she had strewed Mahomet's path with a bundle of thorns, whence her punishment. Abu Lahab is said, at an assembly summoned by Mahomet to hear his message, to have exclaimed, "Let him be damned! Is this all he hath called us together for?" Whereupon this passage was revealed, damning Abu Lahab.


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Traditional account of the first beginning of Inspiration untrustworthy:

But in order to give a full and perfect view of the progress of Mahomet towards a belief in his own inspiration, it is necessary to place before the reader the statements of Tradition.

1st - because Mahomet did not speak on the subject;

These, however, are at this point peculiarly untrustworthy. Mahomet himself from whose lips alone any satisfactory account of the mental process could have been gained, was reserved, if not entirely silent, on the subject. It is likely that the painful season of perturbation and dubitancy recurred ungratefully to his memory; and that the grand result, the salient point of his career, viz., the commission to recite and to preach in the name of God, obscured, if it did not entirely hide, the steps which led to it.

2nd-because the theory of Inspiration prevented free enquiry; and

Again, the fixed dogma with which every Mahometan sets out, that the Coran contains no Sura, no sentence, nor even a sinigle word, which did not emanate by direct communication from God, has confined and misled the conclusions of the biographers19. It would be blasphemy with them to hold that anything of human origin, - any fragments of the spontaneous musings of the Prophet's mind before his revelations were cast in the unvarying mould of inspiration, have found their way into the Coran; aud hence they miss the clue which the above or similar speculations may supply for tracing approximately the course of Mahomet's mental and spiritual history.

19 See p. ii. chap. i. of the Introduction.


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3rd because the subject gave birth to miraculous fabrication

Lastly, whatever facts the biographers may have preserved from the tradition of Khadija's recollections20 have been greatly distorted by the miraculous associations cast around them. Mahomet himself was not unwilling to countenance such superstitious belief. And there is no subject which, in the growth of tradition, would imperceptibly acquire more wonderful and mysterious colouring than the communication of Divine monitions to the heart of Mahomet, and more especially their first beginnings,21 Having thus warned the reader against a too implicit faith in the representations of Tradition, I proceed to give thorn as nearly as possible in the original words.

TRADITIONAL STATEMENT

The first beginnings of the Prophet's inspiration were real visionss. Every vision that he saw was clear as the breaking forth of the morning. This continued for some time, and be grew extremely fond of privacy ; - nothing was so pleasing to him as retirement. So he used to repair to a cave on Mount Hira, where he passed whole days

20 See p. liv. of the same chap. Canon I. B. It is to be remembered that this period preceded the time at which Mahomet stood forth prominently to public notice, as a preacher. Then his system had been matured, and the idea of Inspiration formed. But before that time he could not have been the object of much observation. Khadija must have been almost the only witness of his earliest mental struggles. Ali was but a boy; and it is doubtful how far Zeid and Aba Bakr were yet on sufficiently intimate terms with him, to be made the confidants of his most secret thoughts.

21 Vide chap. i. Introduction, p. lxiii. Canon II. D.


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Visions and solitude

and nights alone before he revisited his family; then he would return to Khadija, and remain for a time at home through affection for her. This went on until the Truth burst upon him, which happened in the cave of Hira.

Gabriel appears to Mahomet

About this time, while lie was at Ajyad,22 he saw an angel in the sky calling to him, "Oh Mahomet! I am Gabriel !" and he was terrified, for so often as he raised his head to the heavens he saw the angel23. And he returned hastily to Khadija, and told her all that had happened; and he said,

He fears becoming a soothsayer

"Oh Khadija! I have never detested anything with greater abhorrence than these idols and soothsayers, and now verily I fear lest I should turn out a soothsayer myself." "Never, my cousin I say not so. The Lord will not treat thee thus;" and she proceeded to recount his many virtues, on which she founded this assurance.

Khadija and Waraca re-assure him

Then she repaired to Waraca,24 and repeated to him wflat Mahomet had told her. "By the Lord!" replied the aged man, "thy uncle's son speaketh the truth. This verily is the beginning of prophecy. And there shall come unto him the

22 This I conclude is the same as the modern Jyad, the mountain tract South of Mecca.

23 Other traditions say only that he saw a light, and heard a voice. Katib al Wackidi, p. 37.

24 Wackidi adds, "this was the first time she went to Waraca," as if there were also a second visit which, however, is not mentioned, - the tradition being fragmentary. It can hardly mean "the first" in the sense that she had never visited him before.


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Great Law,25 like unto the Law of Moses. Wherefore charge him that he entertain none but hopeful thoughts within his heart. If he should declare himself a Prophet while I am yet alive, I will believe in him and I will stand by him."

Inspiration ceases, and he meditates suicide.

Now the first Sura revealed to Mahomet was the 96th, Recite in the name of the Lord, &c.; and that descended on him in the cave of Hira. After this he waited several days26 without seeing Gabriel. And be became greatly downcast, so that he went out at one time to the Mount of Thubeir, and at another to Hira, seeking to cast himself headlong from thence. While thus intent on self-destruction he was suddenly arrested by a voice from heaven.

Gabriel again appears and comforts him

He looked up, and lo! Gabriel upon a throne between the heavens and the earth, who said, "Oh Mahomet! thou art the Prophet of the Lord, in truth, and I am Gabriel!" Then Mahomet turned to go to his own house; and the Lord comforted him, and strengthened his heart. And thereafter Revelations began to follow one upon another with frequency27.

25 Al namus al akbar;- namus being the Arabic form for Nomos, "the Law."

26 - "days." The period is indefinite.

27 The above account is from the Katib al Wackidi, who is at this point more succinct and freer from the marvellous than Hishami. Tabari again surpasses Hishami in the miraculous character of his statements; and the number and variety of his absurd traditions illustrate the rapidity with which, in the third century, fabricated


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Variety of accounts regarding the intermission of Inspiration.

The period succeeding the revelation of the 96th Sura, during which inspiration was suspended, and Mahomet in despondency contemplated suicide, is

stories obtained currency. The following is an outline from Hishami and Tabari, of the current version of the first stirrings of inspiration.

"On the night whereon the Lord was minded to deal graciously with him, Mahomet relates that Gabriel came to him as he slept with his family in the cave of Hira; and he held in his hand a piece of silk with writing thereon, and he said Read! Mahomet replied, I do not (i.e. cannot) read. Whereupon the angel laid hold of him so tightly, that he thought death had come upon him. Then said Gabriel a second time, Read! And Mahomet replied, What shall I read? which words he uttered only to escape the previous agony. And Gabriel proceeded:- Read (recite) in the name of thy Lord, &c.;- repeating the 96th Sura to the end of v. 5; and when he had ended, the angel left him; and "the words," said Mahomet, "were as though they had been graven on my heart." Suddenly the thought occurred to him that he was possessed of evil spirits, and he meditated suicide; but as he rushed forth with the intention of casting himself down a precipice, he was arrested by Gabriel, and stood for a long time transfixed by the sight of him. At last the vision disappeared, and Mahomet returned to Khadija who, alarmed at his absence, had sent messengers to Mecca in quest of him. In consternation he threw himself into her lap, and told her all that had occurred. She reassured him, saying that he would surely be a prophet, and went off to Waraca, who confirmed her in the same belief.

Another account adds that she took Mahomet to Waraca, who foretold to him that he would be rejected by his people, and expelled from Mecca, but that if he himself survived to that period, he would assist and defend him. Tabari, p. 87.

The story that Khadija went to the Monk Addas, who gave her a book from which she might learn whether the visitant was an Angel or a Devil, is evidently a fiction, and does not appear to exist in any early authority. See Sprenger, p. 107.

Another story is that Khadija, to assure Mahomet, tested the character of the Spirit, by making him sit first on her right knee,


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generally represented as of longer duration than in the above statement. This interval, styled the Fatrah or "Intermission," is variously held to have lasted from six months to three years. At its close, the 74th and 93rd Suras, containing assurance of mercy and the command to preach, were delivered. The accounts, however, are throughout confused, if not contradictory; and we can only gather with certainty that there was a time (corresponding with the deductions which we have drawn from the Coran itself), during which the mind of Mahomet hung in suspense, and doubted the Divine mission.28

then on her left, in both of which positions the apparition continued. Then she took him in her lap, and removed her veil, or uncovered her garments, when it disappeared,- thus proving that the spirit was a modest and virtuous being. Thereupon Khadija exclaimed, Rejoice my cousin, for by the Lord! it is an Angel, and no Devil.

Some Christian commentators refer to this tradition in illustration of 1 Cor. xi. 10, "For this cause ought the woman to have power (a veil or covering) on her head because of the Angels:" - that is, according to their explanation, in order to shield them from the glances of the evil spirits. An unlikely interpretation. See Stanley, in loco.

On another occasion, being terrified he entreated Khadija to cover him up, on which was revealed the 74th Sura, beginning Oh thou covered! Again the Prophet having had no visits from Gabriel for some time, Khadija said to him;- Verily I fear that God is displeased with thee; whereupon was revealed Sura xciii;- Thy Lord hath not removed from thee, neither is he displeased, &c. But all such traditions are evidently founded upon the attempt to explain, or illustrate, the passages of the Coran referred to.

28 Some state that he "used to hear a voice and see a light," without receiving any revelation for seven years; and that the


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Character of Mahomet's ecstatic periods;

What was the character of Mahomet's ecstatic periods,-- whether they were simply reveries of profound meditation, or swoons connected with a morbid excitability of the mental or physical constitution,- or in fine were connected with any measure of supernatural influence,--it would be difficult to determine. Upon this subject, exaggerated detailsand fabrications of a marvellous character are to be suspected throughout the Mahometan authorities29. The following particulars it may, however, be well to record:-

traditional account

At the moment of inspiration, anxiety pressed upon the Prophet, and his countenance was troubled30. He fell to the ground like one intoxicated or overcome by sleep; and in the coldest day his forehead would be bedewed with large drops of perspiration. Even his she-camel, if Mahomet chanced to become inspired while he rode upon her, would become affected by a wild excitement, sitting down and rising up, now planting her legs rigidly, then throwing them about as if they would be parted from her. To outward appearance Inspiration

prophetic period at Mecca, during which inspiration descended, lasted only eight years. They would thus make the former period of preliminary monitions to begin at the thirty-eighth year of the Prophet's life.

29 See the a priori signs of inspiration given in the Introductionto the History of lbn Khaldun,- as quoted by Sprenger, p. 111.

30 Katib al Wackidi, p. 37 ,


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descended unexpectedly, and without any rreviouswarning even to the Prophet31.

Statement Mahomet is said himself to have given of them

When questioned on the subject Mahomet replied, "Inspiration descendeth upon me in one of two ways; sometimes Gabriel cometh and communicateth the Revelation unto me, as one man unto another, and this is easy; at other times, it affecteth me like the ringing of a bell, penetrating my very heart, and rending me as it were in pieces; and this it is which grievously afflicteth me32." In the later period of life Mahomet referred his gray hairs to the withering effect produced upon him by the "terrific Suras33." A

31 Abd al Rahman relates that on the return from Hodeibia (A.H. 6,) he saw the people urging on their camels. "And every one was enquiring of his neighbour the cause. And they replied, "Inspiration hath descended on the Prophet." So we too urged on our camels, an& reached Mahomet standing by Kira al Ghamim. And when such numbers of the people as he desired had gathered around him, he began to recite the Fortieth Sura." Katib alWackidi, p. 102 .

32 There are two traditions to this effect from different sources, slightly varying in expression, but similar in purport Katib al Wackidi p. 37 .

No case occurs to me in which it is represented that Mahomet was beforehand aware that the inspiration was about to come upon him.

33 The "terrific" Suras, as specified in the numerous traditions on this subject, are, "Sura Hud (xi.) and its Sisters ;"- the "Sisters" are variously given as Suras 11, 21, 56, 69, 77, 78,81, 101 ;- all Meccan, and some of them very early Suras.

While Abu Bakr and Omar sat in the Mosque, at Medina, Mahomet suddenly came upon them from the door of one of his wives houses (which opened into the mosque,) stroking and lifting up his beard, and looking at it. Now his beard had in it


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Mahometan notions regarding the Devils and Genii

It will not have escaped observation that Tradition has represented Mahomet at one time under serious apprehensions lest the beginnings of inspiration were in reality the promptings of evil Spirits orof Genii who had taken possession of him. The views entertained by Mahometans regarding the Genii are curious, and founded upon tradition traced up to the time of Mahomet himself. Before the mission of the Prophet, the Devils and Genii, it is fancied, had access to the outskirts of Heaven, and by assiduous eaves-dropping secured some of the secrets of the upper world, which they communicated to Soothsayers and Diviners upon earth. But no sooner did Mahomet appear than they were driven from the skies, and, whenever they dared to approach, flaming bolts were hurled at them. The flaming bolts appear to mankind as falling stars. Just at this epoch the show of failing stars wasconsequently brilliant and uninterrupted; and the Arabs, it is said, were much alarmed at the portentious phenomenon34.

Such a belief in the existenceMany more white hairs than his head. And Abu Bakr said, "Ah, thou, for whom I would sacrific fatber and mother, white hairs are hastening upon thee!" And the Prophet raised up his beard with his band and gazed at it; and Abu Bakr's eyes filled with tears. "Yes," said Mahomet, "Hud, (Sura xi.) "and its Sisters, hare hastened my white hairs."-" And what" asked,Abu Bakr "are its sisters?" "The Inevitable (Sura 56,) and the Striking (Sura 101.") Katib al Wackidi, p. 84.

34 Vide Hishami, pp. 45, 46; and Katib al Wackidi, p. 31 . It is just possible that at the period referred to, there may have been an unusually grand and numerous display of falling stars,


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and history of the Genii, childish as it may appear, is clearly developed in the Coran; and throws a mysterious light upon the inner recesses of the Prophet's mind35.

Influence of Satan considered as a possible explanation of Mahomet's belief in his own inspiration

The early doubts of Mahomet, and his suspicion of being under the influence of Genii or Evil Spirits, or suggest the enquiry whether that suspicion had inreality any true foundation, or was the mere fancy of an excited imagination. It is incumbent upon us to consider this question from a Christian point of view, and to ask whether the supernatural influence, which appears to have acted upon the soul of the Arabian Prophet, may not have proceeded from the Evil One and his emissaries. It is not for us to dogmatize on so recondite and mysterious a subject; but the views which Christian verity compels us to entertain regarding the Angel of darkness and his followers, would not be satisfied

which at certain periods, possibly at certain points of the earth's course, are known to be specially abundant.

35 In Sura lxxii. vv. 8-10, the Genii are thus represented as conversing one with another;-" And verily we used to pry into the Heavens, but we found it to be filled with a strong guard and with flaming darts. And we used to sit in some of the seats thereof to listen; hut whoever listeneth now findeth a flaming bolt in ambush. And we know not whether evil be hereby intended against those upon earth, or whether the Lord be minded to guide them into the right way." When they heard Mahomet reciting the Koran, numbers of them believed. Compare also Sura xv., 17,18; lxvii., 5; xxxvii.,6; xxvi., 210; and lxxxi., 24. The Coran is stated in some of its verses to have been revealed for the benefit and salvation both of Men and Genii.


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without some allusion to the fearful power exercised by them, as one at least of the possible causes of the fall of Mahomet - the once sincere enquirer - into the meshes of deception. Assuredly, Mahomet himself lived under the deep and constant conviction of the personality of Satan and his Angels, and of his own exposure to their influence36.

Position justified by a reference to the temptation of our Saviour

The nature of such influence, as well as its possibility, may perhaps be best illustrated by the temptation of which our blessed Saviour is related inthe Gospels to have been, at the opening of his ministry, the subject. Let us endeavour briefly to follow out the parallel.

I. Temptation to minister from supernatural sources to personal wants

In his first approach, Satan taking advantage of the cravings of hunger, tempted Jesus to contravene the Law of his human existence by supplying histemporal wants through his supernatural powers. But sternly did he throw aside the suggestion, and throughout his life appears to have ever refrained

36 The following passages may be consulted on this point. Sura iv., 117; vi., 67, 115, 121; xvi., 98-100; xix.. 82; xxii., 53, 54; xxiii., 99; xli., 35; xliii., 34; and cxiv., in which latter Sara the word "whisperer" is admitted to mean the Devil. A reference to these passages will show that, in thesystem of Mahomet, Satan and his Angels have power to incite the wicked to evil, and even to suggest sinful thoughts and actions to the good, not excluding Mahomet himself The doctrine of the personality of the Devil is patent from references to it throughout the Coran, especially the parts containing such statements as the account of the Fall, the Day of Judgment, description of He11, &c. VOL. II


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from bringing the Divine power which He possessedto the relief of his personal wants.

Analogy in the case of Mahomet

An analogous- temptation was ever ready to entrap the footsteps of Mahomet. He, indeed, was not possessed of any inherent supernatural ability. But, as a teacher who professed himself inspired, he arrogated a spiritual power which he was continually tempted to misuse in subservience to his personal necessities and even to his erring desires. The subsequent records of his life too plainly prove that he fell into the snare.

II. Temptation to compass spiritual and lawful ends by unlawful means

In the second scene our Lord was tempted to seek spiritual and lawful ends, by unlawful means; -to 'manifest his Messiahship by a vain-glorious display of supernatural energy. The object was legitimate; but the means would have involved a rash and presumptuous tempting of the Divine providence, to which his humanity owed a perfect subordination. Jesus was to advance his religionby no such unauthorized expedients ;-however much it was the object of his mission, upon appropriate occasions, to display before the world the Divine glory of his nature, or show with what tremendous energy and Godlike manifestation He could have supported his teaching. "if He be the Son of God, let Him come down from the cross," was a suggestion from the same source; yet He descended not. It was the law of his human lifeto deny himself the use of that power, by which he


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could have summoned Legions to work out his plans and blast the machinations of his enemies.

Analogy in the case of Mahomet

What a melancholy light does the comparison cast upon the career of Mahomet! He, it is true, owned no divine energy. But he was tempted to assume a forged weapon of fearful energy and temper by which to - work out his ends. That Instrument was the NAME OF GOD. As his scheme advanced, he betook himself to other means; and sought by temporal inducements, and by the forceof arms, to extend the worship of the One God. The subtile nature of the temptation was the same here as in the narrative of the Evangelists ;- to compass a pious end by unlawful means.

III. Tempted to a compromise with Evil and the world

Again, the Devil tempted Jesus to fall down andworship him by the promise of the kingdoms of theworld and the glory of them. Perhaps the natureof the satanic insinuation may be thus conceived.A death struggle was at hand between the kingdomof Jesus and the world; a mortal combat, in which,through Death itself, Life was to be won for hispeople. To the world's end, the power of Dark-ness would form an awful antagonism to the powerof Christianity, impeding its spread, and oftenrecapturing its very conquests. - Was it possible tocompromise the struggle? Would Satan abate thefierceness of his opposition? If he were even toremain neutral, how would the contest be ugh toned,and what millions more might be brought into the


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kingdom of heaven! And this might be gained by the acknowledgment of a Power that in reality leads captive the great mass of mankind. By so slight a compromise with the spirit of the World, was it not incumbent to secure such vast and noble ends? A little concession would avoid a struggle of inconceivable anguish and loss, and with certainty secure a vast and glorious success not otherwise to be hoped for, and all tending to the honour of God.Thus would the worldling have reasoned, and thus decided. But? Jesus knew of no compromise with Sin, even in its most hidden form; and, fully consciousof the fearful nature of the approaching combat, rejected the alluring offer.

Analogy in the case of Mahomet

So did not Mahomet. He listened to the suggestion, and was tempted to seek a compromise between Religion and the World. The effect was a politico-religious system, forming the closest combination imaginable between worldliness and spirituality, between Good and Evil. Barely so muchof virtue and of spiritual truth is retained as will appease the religious principle which exists in man, and his inward craving after the service of hisCreator; while the reins of passion and indulgence are relaxed to the utmost extent compatible with the appearance of goodness. Mahometanism indeedpresents a wonderful adaptation to fallen humanity. The spurious imitation of godliness satisfies the Serious; the laxity of its moral code, and the compatibility


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of its external observances with inner irreligion, present no barrier to the Sensualist.

Islam a compromise between religion and the world.

Whatever compromise was made by Mahomet on the one hand, the expectations held forth on the other were well fulfilled; for the Kingdoms of this the world and the glory of them, followed in rapid succession in the train of Islam.

I think that I need to offer no apology for the introduction of this parallel. If we admit that our Saviour was at the commencement of his mission the subject of a direct and special temptation by the Evil one, we may safely assume that a similar combat possibly was waged, though with far other results, in the case of Mahomet.

If Mahomet was acted on by a supernatural guidance, his course at Medina proves it to have been from an evil source.

Happy would it have been for the memory of the Arabian Prophet, if his career had terminated with his flight from Mecca. Then, indeed, the imputation of a compromise such as has been above supposed might, with some show of justice, have been branded as uncharitable and unwarranted. But the fruits of his principles, as exhibited in connection with his prophetic office, at Medina, are of too unequivocal a character to allow a doubt that if he acted under a supernatural guidance, that guidance proceeded from no pure and holy source. Ambition, rapine, assassination, lust, are the undenied features of his later life, openly sanctioned by the assumed permission, sometimes even by the express command of the Most high! May we


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conceive that a diabolical influence and inspiration, was permitted to enslave the heart of him who had deliberately yielded to the compromise with evil? May not Satan have beguiled the heart in the habitude of an Angel of light and, even when insinuating his vilest suggestions, have professed himself a Messenger from the God of purity and holiness? If so, what an assimilation must gradually have been wrought between the promptings of the Evil one from without, and the subjective perceptions of Mahomet within, when he could imagine, and with earnestness and sincerity assert, that the Almighty had sanctioned and even encouraged his debased appetites!

Such possibilities are suggested, not dogmatized upon.

It is enough to have suggested the awful possibility. None may venture an unhesitating reply, dogmatized until there are laid bare to our view, in a more spiritual state, the workings and the manifold agencies of that unseen life which, though unceasingly active both within us and around us, remains mysteriously hid from mortal ken.


NO NUMBER

POSTSCRIPT.

I have received and corrected the proofs of the last fifty-six pages under difficulties. All my MSS. and books of reference have been placed in security from the ravages of our mutineer army, and are inaccessible to me at present. I beg the reader's indulgence for inaccuracies.

W. M.
Fort AGRA,
18th July, 1857.


The Life of Mahomet, Volume II [Table of Contents]