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The Birth and Childhood of Mahomet

History of Mecca already traced to 570 A.D..

IN the Introduction, I have traced the history of History of Mecca and the ancestors of Mahomet, from the earliest times of which we have any account, down to the famous Year of the Elephant, which marks the deliverance of the sacred city from the invading army of Abraha the Abyssinian viceroy of Yemen. Before proceeding farther, I propose briefly to describe Mecca, and the country immediately surrounding it.

Description of MECCA.

Within the great mountain range which skirts the Red Sea, and about equidistant by the caravan track from Yemen and the Gulph of Akaba, lies the holy valley.

Position with reference to the sea coast, and Taif.

The traveller from the sea-shore, after a journey of about fifty miles, reaches it by an almost imperceptible ascent, chiefly through sandy plains and defiles hemmed in by low hills of gneiss

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and quartz, which rise in some places to the height of 400 or 500 feet1. Passing Mecca, and pursuing his eastward course, he proceeds with the same gentle rise between hills partly composed of granite through the valley of Mina, and in five or six hours arrives at the sacred eminence of Arafat. Onwards the mountains ascend to a great height, till about eighty miles from the sea the granite peaks of Jebel Kora crown the range, and Taif comes in sight thirty miles farther east. Between Jebel Kora and Taif the country is fertile and lovely. Rivulets every here and there descend from the hills; the plains are clothed with verdure, and adorned by large shady trees.

Fertility of Taif.

Taif is famous for its fruits. The grapes are of a "very large size and delicious flavour"And there is no want of variety to tempt the appetite; for peaches and pomegranates, apples and almonds, figs, apricots and quinces, grow in abundance and perfection. Far different is it with

1 Burkhardt’s Arabia, pp.58-62. The journey between Jedda and Mecca was performed by Burkhardt in nineteen hours on a camel. On another occasion he accomplished it upon an ass in thirteen hours. He calculates the distance at sixteen or seventeen hours walk, or about fifty-five miles from Jedda. Burton's estimate is less. He thus speaks of the journey : -" Allowing eleven hours for our actual march, those wonderful donkeys had accomplished between forty-four and forty-six miles, generally of deep sand, in one night." Vol. iii. p. 375.
For the character of the rocks, see Burkhardt, p. 62, and Ali Bey, vol. ii. p. 118.

2 Mecca is amply supplied with water melons, dates, limes, cucumbers, and other vegetables from Taif and Wady Fatima.

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the frowning hills and barren valleys for many a mile around Mecca.

Sterility of Mecca.

Stunted brushwood and thorny acacias occasionally relieve the eye, and furnish scanty repast to the hardy camel; but the general features are rugged rocks unrelieved by a trace of foliage, with sandy and stony glens from which the peasant in vain looks for the grateful returns of tillage. Even at the present day, after the riches of Asia have for twelve centuries been poured into the city, and a regular supply of water may be secured by a conduit from the fresh springs of Arafat, Mecca can hardly boast a garden or cultivated field, and only here and there a tree3.

During the pilgrimage season, the former place sends at leant one hundred camels every day to the capital." Burton, vol. iii. p. 362, note. The description in the text is from Burkhardt.

3 Burkhardt noticed a few acres to the north of the town "irrigated by means of a well, and producing vegetables," p.127. Some trees also grow in the extreme southern quarter, where Burkhardt first took up his abode: - "I had here," he says, "the advantage of several large trees growing before my windows, the verdure of which, among the barren and sun-burnt rocks of Mecca, was to me more exhilarating than the finest landscape could have been under different circumstances," p.101. But of the valley generally he says that it is "completely barren and destitute of trees;" and "no trees or gardens cheer the eye," pp 103, 104.

So Ali Bey:-" I never saw but one flower the whole of my stay at Mecca, which was upon the way to Arafat." Vol. ii. p. 99. Mecca "is situated in the bottom of a sandy valley, surrounded on all sides by naked mountains, without brook, river, or any running water; without trees, plaints, or any species of vegetation." Vol. ii. p. 112. Again : - "The aridity of the country is such that there is hardly a plant to be seen near the city, or upon the

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Valley of Mecca.

In the immediate vicinity of Mecca the hills are formed of quartz and gneiss; but a little to the east, grey strata of granite appear, and within one or two miles of the city, lofty and rugged peaks (as the Jabal Nur or Hira)4 begin to shoot upwards in grand and commanding masses. The valley of Mecca is about two miles in length. The general direction and slope is from north to south; but at the upper or northern extremity, where the way

neighboring mountains... We may not expect to find at Mecca anything like a meadow, or still less a garden... They do not sow any grain, for the too ungrateful soil would not produce any plant to the cultivator. The soil refuses to yield even spontaneous productions, of which it is so liberal elsewhere. In short there are but three or four trees upon the spot where formerly stood the house of Abu Taleb, the uncle of the prophet; and six or eight others scattered here and there. These trees are prickly, and produce a small fruit similar to the jujube, which is called nebbak by the Arabs." Vol. ii. p. 110.

And of its environs, Burkhardt writes : - "As soon as we pass these extreme precincts of Mecca, the desert presents itself; for neither gardens, trees, nor pleasure-houses line the avenues to the town, which is surrounded on every side by barren sandy valleys, and equally barren hills. A stranger placed on the great road to Taif; just beyond the turn of the hill in the immediate neighbourhood of the sheriff's garden house, would think himself as far removed from human society, as if he were in the midst of the Nubian desert." p. 131. This he ascribes to indolence and apathy, seeing that water "can be easily obtained at about thirty feet below the surface." But there must, nevertheless, be some natural defect in the gravelly and sandy soil of Mecca, else the munificence of the Moslem rulers, and the notorious avarice of its inhabitants, would long ere this have planted trees and gardens for profit, if not to beautify the town.

4 Burkhardt, p. 175, and note.

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leads to Arafat and Taif, it tends to the eastward; and at the southern or lower end, where the road branches off to Yemen, Jedda, and Syria, there is a still more decided bend to the west5. At the latter curve the valley opens out to a breadth of above half a mile, and it is in the spacious amphitheatre thus shut in by rocks and mountains, that the Kaaba, and the main portions of the city both ancient and modern, were founded. The surrounding rocks rise precipitously two or three hundred feet, and on the eastern side reach to a height of five hundred feet. It is here that the craggy defiles of Abu Cobeis, the most lofty of all the hills encircling the valley, overhang the quarter of the town in which Abd al Muttalib and his family lived. About three furlongs to the north-east of the Kaaba, the spot of Mahomet's birth is still pointed out to the pious pilgrim as the Sheb Maulud, and hard by is the Sheb Ali (or quarter in which Ali resided), both built upon the declivity of the rock6.

5 The high road to Medina and Syria takes this southerly circuit.. A direct road has been made through a dip in the mountain to the north-west of the city. This is facilitated by steps cut out of the rock-a modern work, ascribed to one of the Barmecide family. See Burkhardt, p.129; Burton, vol. iii. p.144.

6 The above details are taken from Burkhardt and Ali Bey, chiefly from the former, who thus describes the valley:

"This town is situated in a valley, narrow and sandy, the main direction of which is from north to south; but it inclines towards the north-west near the southern extremity of the town. In

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Though within the tropics, Mecca has not the usual tropical showers. The rainy season begins

breadth this valley varies from 100 to 700 paces; the chief part of the city being placed where the valley is most broad. In the narrower part are single rows of houses only, or detached shops. The town itself covers a space of about 1500 paces in length, from the quarter called El Shebeyka to the extremity of the Mala; but the whole extent of ground comprehended under the denomination of Mekka, from the suburb called Djerouel (where is the entrance from Djidda) to the suburb called Moabede (on the Tayf road), amounts to 3,500 paces. The mountains enclosing this valley are from 200 to 500 feet in height, completely barren and destitute of trees. The principal chain lies on the eastern side of the town: the valley slopes gently towards the south, where stands the quarter called El Mesfale (the low place). The rain-water from the town is lost towards the south of Mesfale in the open valley named Wady ci Tarafeyn. Most of the town is situated in the valley itself; but there are also parts built on the sides of the mountains, principally of the eastern chain, where the primitive habitations of the Koreysh, and the ancient town, appear to have been placed." Burkhardt, p. 103.

Ale Bey gives the "mean breadth" of the valley at 155 toises. The present town, he says, "covers a line of 900 toises in length, and 260 in breadth at its centre, which extends from east to west." Vol. ii. p. 94.

Burton writes :-" The site is a winding valley, on a small plateau, half-way below the Ghats." Its utmost length is two-and-a-third miles from the Mabadah (north) to the southern mount Jiyad; and three-quarters of a mile would be the extreme breadth between Abu Kubays eastward, - upon whose western slope the most solid mass of the town clusters, - and Jebel Hindi, westward of the city. In the centre of this line stands the Kabbah." Vol. iii. p.320.

It is much to be regretted that Lieut. Burton has not employed his clear and graphic pen in giving us a more detailed account of Mecca. He excuses himself by saying that "Ali Bey and Burkhardt have already said all that requires saying." Yet variety of testimony is valuable: and such an account as he has given us of Medina is still a desideratum.

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about December. The clouds do not discharge their precious freight continuously or with regularity. Sometimes the rain descends with such excessive violence as to inundate the little valley with floods from Arafat. Even in the summer, rain is not unfrequent. The seasons are thus uncertain, and the horrors of continued drought are occasionally experienced. The heat, especially in the months of autumn, is oppressive7. The surrounding ridges intercept the zephyrs that would otherwise reach the close and sultry valley; the sun beats with violence on the bare gravelly soil, and reflects an in tense and distressing glare. The native of Mecca, acclimated to the narrow vale, may regard with complacency its inhospitable atmosphere8, but the traveller, even in the depth of winter, complains of a stifling closeness and suffocating warmth.

7 Burkhardt says it is most severe from August to October he mentions that "a suffocating hot wind pervaded the atmosphere for five successive days in September," p.240. Ali Bey says - "It may be imagined how great must be the heat in summer, when in the month of January, with the windows open, I could scarcely endure the sheet of the bed upon me, and the butter at the same period was always liquid like water." Vol.11. p.112. Burton writes: "The heat reverberated by the bare rocks is intense, and the normal atmosphere of an eastern town communicates a faint lassitude to the body, and irritability to the mind." Vol. iii. p.319.

8 Some years after the Hegira, the refugees began to long for their native Mecca, and some touching verses are presented expressive of their fond affection for its sterile soil and the springs in its vicinity.

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Fond veneration with which it is regarded by the Arabs.

Such is the spot, barren and unpromising though it be, on which the Arabs look with fond and superstitious reverence as the cradle of their Destiny, and the arena of the remote events which gave birth to their Faith. Here Hagar alighted with Ishmael, and paced with troubled steps the space between the little hill of Safa (a spur or Abu Cobeis), and the eminence of Marwa, an offshoot on the opposite side of the valley from the lower range of Keyckaan9. Here the Bani Jorhom established themselves upon the falling fortunes of the ancestors of the Coreish; and from hence they were expelled by the Bani Khozaa, the new invaders from the south. It was in this pent-up vale that Cossay nourished his ambitious plans, and, in the neighbouring defiles of Mina., asserted them by a bloody encounter with the Bani Sufa: and here he established the Coreish in their supremacy. It was hard by the Kaaba that his descendants, the children of Abd al Dar and of Abd Menaf, were drawn up in battle array to fight for the sovereign prerogative. It was here that Hisham exhibited his glorious liberality; and on this spot that Abd al Muttalib toiled with his solitary son till he discovered the ancient well of Zamzam. Thousands of such associations crowd

9 Burton calls "Marwah a little rise like Safa in the lower slope of Abu Kubays." Vol, iii.p. 345. But in the plans both of Burkhardt and Ali Bey it would seem to be a spur from the range on the opposite side of the valley.

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upon the mind of the weary pilgrim, as the minarets of the Kaaba rise before his longing eyes; and in the long vista of ages reaching even to Adam, his imagination pictures multitudes of pious devotees in every age and from all quarters of the globe, flocking to the little valley, making their seven circuits of the holy house, kissing the mysterious stone, and drinking of the sacred water. Well then may the Arab regard the fane, and its surrounding rocks, with awe and admiration.

Abdallah (born 545 A.D.) marries Amina.

At the period of Abraha's retreat from Mecca10, Abd al Muttalib, now above seventy years of age, enjoyed the rank and consideration of the foremost chief of Mecca. A few months previous to this event, he had taken his youngest Son ABDALLAH11, then about four-and-twenty years of age, to the house of Wuheib, a distant kinsman descended from Zohra, brother of the famous Cossay; and there affianced him to AMINA the daughter of Wahb, brother of Wuheib, under whose guardianship she lived. At the same time Abd at Muttalib, not-

10 By M. Caussin de Perceval's calculations, this event occurred in June 570 A.D.

11 Abdallah, or servant of God, (corresponding with the Hebrew Abdiel) was a name common among the ante-Mahometan Arabs. Conf. C. de Perceval, vol. i p. 126, vol.ii. p. 286, 431, 436. Mahomet's nurse, Halima, was the daughter of a person called Abdallah had a son of the same name. Vide Katib al Wackidi, p. 28 ½.

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withstanding his advanced age, bethought him of a matrmonia1 alliance on his own account, and married Halah the cousin of Amina and daughter of Wuheib. Of this late marriage, the famous Hamza was the first fruits12.

Death of Abdallah.

As was customary, when the marriage was consummated at the home of the bride, Abdallah remained with her there for three days13. Not long after, he set out during the pregnancy of his wife on a mercantile expedition to Ghazza (Gazza) in the south of Syria. On his way back he sickened at Medina, and was left by the caravan there with his father's maternal relatives of the Bani

12 Hamza is said to have been four years older than Mahomet. Vide Katib al Wackidi, p 20, margin. This would either imply that Abdallah was married at least four years to Amina before Mahomet's birth, which is not likely, and is opposed to the tradition or Amina's early conceptions; or that Abd al Muttalib married Halah at least four years before his son married Amina, which is also opposed to tradition. Wherefore, following the traditions regarding the simultaneous marriage of Abdallah and his father, we must hold that Hamza was not older than Mahomet.

13 The absurd story (or which there are many versions inconsistent with one another) of a woman offering herself without success to Abdallah while on his way to Wuheib's house, but declining his advances when he was returning thence because the prophetic light had departed from his forehead, falls under the Canon II. D. Some make this woman to be a sister of the Christian Waraca. Having heard from her brother tidings of the coming prophet, she recognized in Abdallah's forehead the prophetic light, and coveted to be the mother of the prophet! This fable perhaps gave rise to the later legend that many Meccan damsels died of envy the night of Ablallah's marriage.

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Najjar14. Abd al Muttalib, learning of Abdallah's sickness from his comrades, despatched his son Harith to take care of him. On reaching Medina, Harith found that his brother had died about a month after the departure of the caravan, and was buried in the house of Nabigha in the quarter of the Bani Adi. He returned with these tidings, and his father and brethren grieved sore for Abdallah. He was five and twenty years of age at his death, avid Amina had not yet been delivered15. He left behind him five camels fed on wild shrubs16, a flock of goats, and a slave girl called Omm Ayman (and also Baraka), who tended the infant born by his widow. This little property, and the house in which he dwelt, were all the inheritance Mahomet received from his father; but, little as it was, the simple habits of the Arab required no more, and instead of being evidence of poverty the female

14 It will be remembered that Abd al Muttalib's mother, Salma,(Hashim's wife,) belonged to Medina, and to this tribe See Introduction, chap iv. p. ccli. She was of the family Bani Adi mentioned below.

15 This statement is from Katib al Wackidi, p.18. He mentions other accounts, such as that Abdallah went to Medina to purchase dates; and that he died eighteen months (according to some, seven months) after Mahomet's birth. But he gives the preference to the version transcribed in the text.

16 Katib al Wackidi p. 18 ½. , - that is to say, camels not reared and fed at home, and therefore of an inferior kind.

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slave in rather an indication of prosperity and comfort17.

Amina delivered of a son, about the 20th August, 570 A.D..

Passing over, as fabu1ous aud unworthy of credit, the marvellous incidents attending the gestation of the prophet and his first appearance in the world18,

17 See Sprenger, p. 81. 'The house was sold by a son of Abu Talib to one of the Coreish for twenty dinars. Tabari.

18 The miracles attending the birth of Mahomet are very favorite topics with modern Moslems. See exempli gratia, the puerile tales from the Maudud Sharif, or Ennobled Nativity, in No. xxxiv. or the Calcutta Review, p. 404 et. seq. "Amina relates that she heard a fearful noise which cast her into an agony of terror, but immediately a white bird came and laying its wing upon her bosom, restored her confidence;-she became thirsty, and anon a cup of delicious beverage, white as milk, and sweet like honey, was presented by an unseen hand ; - heavenly voices and the tread of steps were heard around her, but no person was seen ; - a sheet was let down from heaven, and a voice proclaimed that the blessed Mohammed was to be screened from mortal view ; - birds of Paradise, with ruby beaks and wings of emerald, strutted along regaling her with heavenly warbling; persons from above scattered aromas around her &C.

No sooner was Mohammed born than he prostrated himself on the ground, and raising his hands, prayed earnestly for the pardon of his people &c" His aunt Safia related six miraculous things: - 1st. That he was born circumcised and with his navel cut. 2nd. In a clear voice the new born baby recited the creed. 3rd. The "seal of prophecy" was written on his back in letters of light, &c. "Three persons, as brilliant as the sun, appeared from heaven. One held a silver goblet; the second an emerald try; the third a silken towel’ they washed him seven times; then blessed and saluted him with the glorious address as the "Prince of Mankind".

These tales, however implicitly believed by credulous Mahometans, are modern. The ancient biographies themselves, as might have been expected, are not free from absurd stories. The following are examples.

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it suffices to state that the widowed Amina gave birth to a son in the autumn of the year 570 A.D. It is a vain attempt to fix with certainty the precise date of the birth, for the materials are too vague and discrepant to be subjected to so close a calculation.

At the moment of Mahomet's birth, a light proceeded from Amina, which rendered visible the palaces and streets of Bostra, and the necks of the camels there. Katib al Wackidi p. 18 ½; Hishami, p.30. This evidently originated in the mistaken application of some metaphorical saying, such as that "the light of Islam, which in after days proceeded from the infant now born, has illuminated Syria and Persia." It is remarkable that the honest but credulous Katib al Wackidi leaves Hishami far behind in his relation of these miracles. His traditions make Mahomet as soon as born to support himself on his hands, seize a handful of earth, and raise up his head to heaven. He was born clean, and circumcised, whereat Abd al Muttalib greatly marvelled. So of Amina, it is said that she felt no weight or inconvenience from the embryo; that heavenly messengers came to her, and saluted her as the mother elect of him who was to be the prophet and lord of his people; that she was desired by them to call the child Ahmed; that alarmed by these visions she, by the advice of her female acquaintance, hung pieces of iron as charms on her arms and neck, &C Katib al Wackidi p. 18. Sprenger infers from these traditions, that the mother had a weak and nervous temperament, inherited by her son. But I rather think that the traditions themselves should be discarded as utterly untrustworthy, both on account of the period, and the subject matter of which they treat. See Canons 1. A, and II. D, in chapter i. of the Introduction.

One tradition makes Amina say, "I have had children, but never was the embryo of one heavier than that of Mahomet." The Secretary of Wackidi (p.18) rejects this tradition because he says Amirna never had any child except Mahomet; but its very existence is a good illustration of the recklessness of Mahometan traditionists.

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We may be content to know that the event occurred about fifty-five days after the attack of Abraha19; and may accept, as an approximation, the date of M. Caussin de Perceval (whose calculations have already been recommended for general acceptance), namely, the 20th of August, 570 A.D.20.

19 Katib al Wackidi, p. 18 ½.

20 We know accurately the date of Mahomet's death, but we cannot calculate backwards with certainty even the year of his birth, because his life is variously stated as extending from sixty-three to sixty-five years: and, besides this, there is a doubt whether the year meant is a lunar, or a luni-solar one. See Introduction, chapter iii. p. xlix note.

The Arab historians give various dates, as the fortieth year of Kesra's reign, or the 880th of the Seleucide Dynasty, which answers to 570 A.D.; others the forty-first, the forty-second, or the forty-third of Kesra'a reign, that is the 881st, 882nd, or 883rd of the era of Alexander.

M. de Sacy fixes the date as the 20th of April A.D. 571: on the assumption that the lunar year was always in force at Mecca. But he adds, - "En vain chercheroit-on à determiner l'epoque de la naissance de Mahomet d'une maniere qui ne laissat subsister aucune incertitude." See the question discussed by him p. 43, et seq. Memoire des Arabes avant Mahomet, tome xlviii. Mem. Acad. Inscrip. et Belles Lettres.

II. V. Hammer fixes on 569 A.D.; and Sprenger notes two dates as possible, viz. 13th April 571, and 15th May 567, A.D. (p. 74.)

The common date given by Mahometan writers is the 12th of Rabi I.; but other authorities give the 2nd, and others again in the 10th of that month. Katib al Wackidi, p. 18 1/2. But it is scarcely possible to believe that the date could, under ordinary circumstances in Meccan society as then constituted, have been remembered with perfect accuracy.

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Joy of Abd al Muttalib

No Sooner was the infant born, than Amina sent to tell Abd al Muttalib. The messenger carrying the good tidings, reached the Chief as he sat in the sacred enclosure of the Kaaba, in the midst of his sons and the principal men of his tribe; and he rejoiced and rose up, and those that were with him. And he went to Amina, who told him all that had taken place. So he took the young child in his arms, and went to the Kaaba; and as he stood

There are two points affecting the traditions on this head which have not attracted sufficient notice. The first is that Monday is by all traditionists regarded as a remarkable day in Mahomet's history, on which the chief events of his life occurred. Thus an old tradition: - "The prophet was born on a Monday; he restored to its place the black stone on a Monday; he assumed his prophetical office on a Monday; he fled from Mecca on a Monday; he reached Medina on a Monday; he expired on a Monday." Tabari, p. 214; Katib al Wackidi p. 37; Hishami; p. 173, marg. gloss. Nay, Wackidi makes him to have been conceived on a Monday. Katib al Wackidi p. 18. This conceit no doubt originated in Mahomet's death, and one or two other salient incidents of his life, really falling on a Monday; and hence the same day was superstitiously extended backwards to unknown dates. When Monday was once fixed upon as the day of his birth, it led to calculations thereon (see Sprenger, p. 75 note,) and that again to a variety of date.

Secondly: Something of the same spirit led to the assumption that the prophet was born in the same month and on the same day of the month, as well as of the week, on which he died. He died on Monday the 12th of Rabi I; and therefore the tradition which assigns Monday the 12th of Rabi I. as the day also of his birth is the most popular. But that such minutae, as the day either of the month or week were likely to be remembered so long after especially in the case of an orphan is inconsistent with Canon I. A, chapter i. of the Introduction.

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The child is called Mohammad

beside the holy house, he gave thanks to God. The child was called MOHAMMED21.

Derivation of the name

This name was rare among the Arabs, but not unknown. It is derived from the root Hamd and signifies "The Praised." Another form is AHMAD, which having been erroneously employed as a translation of "The Paraclete" in some Arabic version of the New Testament, became a favorite term with Mahometans, especially in addressing Jews and Christians; for it was (they said,) the title under which the prophet had been in their books predicted22. Following the established usage of Christendom, I will style Mohammad MAHOMET.

21 The above is in the simple words of Wackidi. Katib al Wackidi, p. 19. Though some of the incidents are perhaps of late growth (as the visit to the Kaaba,) yet they have been in the text retained as at least possible. In the original are several palpable fabrications: as that Amina told Abdal al Muttalib of her visions, and the command of the angel that the child should be called Ahmad. The prayer of Abd al Muttalib at the Kaaba is also apocryphal being evidently composed in a Mahometan strain.

22 It may be of some importance to show that the name was known and used in Arabia before Mahomet's birth. We have seen that his grandfather was called Sheba al Hamd, which is the same word. The form of Ahmad was very rare, but we find it in use among the Bani Bakr ibn Wail, about thirty or forty years before Mahomet. Vide M. C. de Perceval, vol. ii. p. 378. We have a Mohmammed, son of Sofian, of the Tamim tribe, born before 500 A.D. Ibid., p. 297. We meet also with a Muhammed of the tribe of Aws, born about 530 A.D. Ibid., Table vii. Among the followers of the prophet killed at Kheibar, we find a Mahmud ibn Maslama (elsewhere called Mohammed ibn Maslama,) whose name could not have had any connection with that of

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The infant was not nursed by his mother,

It was not the custom for the higher class of women at Mecca to nurse their own children. They procured nurses for them, or gave them out to nurse among the neighbouring Bedouin tribes, where was gained the double advantage of a robust frame,

Mahomet, he was also an Awsite. Hishami p. 341; Katib al Wackidi p.121. The Secretary, in a chapter devoted to the subject, mentions five of the same name before the prophet - 1. Mohammad ibn Khoaadzya, of the Bani Dzakwan, who went to Abraha, and remained with him in the profession of Christianity; a couplet by a brother of this man is quoted, in which the name occurs. 2. Mohammad ibn Saffin, of the Bani Tamim. 3. - Mohammad ibn Joshami, of the Bani Suwaat. 4. Mohammad al Asiyadi. 5. Mohammad al Fockimi. But with the usual Mahometan credulity and desire to exhibit anticipations of the prophet, the Katib al Wackidi adds that these names were given by such Arabs as had learnt, from Jews, Christians, or Soothsayers, that a prophet so named was about to arise in Arabia; and the parents, in the fond hope each that his child would turn out to be the expected prophet, called it by his name! In the second instance this intelligence is said to have been imparted by a Christian bishop. Katib al Wackidi, p.32.

The word Ahmad must have occurred by mistake in some early Arabic translation of John's Gospel, for "the Comforter," for ; or was forged as such by some ignorant or designing monk in Mahomet's time. Hence the partiality for this name, which was held to be a promise or prophecy of Mahomet. The Secretary of Wackidi has a chapter devoted to the titles of the prophet. Among these are . The last of these means "Obliviator" or " Blotter out:" and is thus interpreted "Because God blots out through him the sins of his followers:" or, - as farther explained, - "blots out through him unbelief." Katib al Wackidi p. 19 1/2.

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and the pure speech and free manners of the desert23.

but for a few days by Thueiba;

The infant Mahomet, shortly after his birth, was made over to Thueiba, a slave woman of his uncle Abu Lahab, who had lately nursed Hamza24. Though he was suckled hy her for a very few days, he retained in after life a lively sense of the connection thus formed. Both Mahemet and Khadija were wont to express in grateful terms their respect for her. Mahomet himself offered to her regularly gifts of clothes and other presents until the seventh year of the Hegira, when, upon his return from

23 Burkhardt states that this practice is common still among the Shereefs of Mecca. At eight days old the infant is sent away and , excepting a visit at the sixth month, does not return to his parents till eight or ten years of age. The Bani Hodheil, Thakif, Coreish, and Harb, are mentioned as tribes to which the infants are thus sent; and (which in a singular evidence of the stability of Arab tribes and customs,) to these is added the Bani Sadd, the very tribe to which the infant Mahomet was made over. Burkhardt's Travels pp. 229-231. This is corroborated by Burton; vol. ii. p.308, vol. iii. p.49. Weil assigns another reason for this practice, viz., the anxiety of the Meccan mothers, by avoiding nursing, to have large families, and to preserve their constitutions, (p. 24, note 7.)

24 Foster-relationship was regarded by the Arab's as a very near tie, and therefore all those are carefully noted by use biographers who had been nursed "with Mahomet," (or as Sprenger puts it, " with the same milk.") Ali, when at Medina, proposed to Mahomet that he should marry Hamza's daughter, and praised her beauty to him; but Mahomet refrained, saying that a daughter of his foster-brother was not lawful for him. Katib al Wackidi, p. 20.

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Kheibar, tidings were brought of her death. Then Mahomet enquired after her son Masruh, his foster- brother; but he too was dead, and she had left no relatives25.

and then entrusted to Halima a woman of the Bani Saad

After Thueiba had suckled the child for several days26, a party of the Bani Saad (a tribe of the Bani Hawazin,27) arrived at Mecca with ten women who offered themselves as nurses for the Meccan infants. They were soon provided with children, excepting Halima, who was at last with difficulty persuaded to take the infant Mahomet; for it was to the father that the nurses chiefly looked for a liberal reward, and the charge of the orphan child had been already declined by the party. The

25 These pleasing traits of Mahomet's character will be found at p. 20 of the Katib al Wackidi. It is added that Khadija sought to purchase Thueiba that she might set her at liberty, but Abu Lahab refused. After Mahomet had fled from Mecca, Abu Lahab himself set her free; and the credulous traditionists relate that on this account he experienced a minute remission of his torments in hell.

26 So Wackidi , p. 20. Weil (p. 25, note 8) adduces traditions, but apparently not good ones, for a longer period. If the nurses used (as is said) to come to Mecca twice a year in spring and in harvest, they must hare arrived on the present occasion in autumn, not long after the date which I have adopted as that of Mahomet's birth.

27 Descended from Khasafa, Cays, Aylan, Modhar, and Maadd, and therefore of the same origin as the Coreish. See Introduction, chapter iii. p. cxcv.

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legends of after days have encircled Halima's journey home with a halo of miraculous prosperity, but this it does not lie within my province to relate28.

Mahomet remains among the Bani Saad till five years old

The infancy, and part of the childhood of Mahomet were spent with Halima and her husband29, among the Bani Saad. At two years of age she weaned him and took him to his home. Amina was so delighted with the healthy and robusst appearance of her infant, who looked like a child of double the age, that she said, - "take him with thee back again to the desert; much do I fear for him the unhealthy air of Mecca." So Halima returned with him to her tribe. When another two years were

28 For example, Amina said to the nurse that for three successive nights, she had been told in a vision that one of the family of Abu Dzueib was destined to nurse her infant; when, to her astonishment, Halima replied, that is my husband's name ! Neither Halima nor her camel had any milk (or her own child on the journey to Mecca; but, no sooner had she received the infant Mahomet, than she had abundance for both, and so had the camel. Her white donkey could hardly move along on the road to Mecca for weakness; but on the way home it outstripped all the others, so that their fellow travellers marvelled exceedingly. It was a year of famine, yet the Lord so blessed Halima, for the little Mahomet's sake, that her cattle always returned fat and with plenty of milk, while those of every other person in the tribe were thin and dry : - and many other such stories. See the legend as given by Sprenger, p. 143; Katib al Wackidi, p. 20 1/2; and Hishami (who here indulges more in the marvellous than the Secretary,) p. 31.

29 The Katib al Wackidi makes the husband's name Abu Dzueib (P. 20 1/2), but some call him Harith, and name Halima's Abu Dzueib.

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Is seized with a fit

ended, some strange event occurred to the boy which greatly alarmed his nurse. It was probably a fit of epilepsy; but Mahometan legends have invested it with with so many marvellous features, that it is difficult to discover the real facts30. It is certain that the

30 The following is the account of Wackidi, who is more concise than the other biographers on the subject: "When four years of age, he was one morning playing with his (foster) brother and sister among the cattle, close by the encampment. And there came two angels who cut open his body and drew forth from thence the black drop, and cast it from them, and washed his inside with water of snow from a golden platter. Then they weighed him against a thousand of his people, and he out-weighed them all: and the one of them said unto the other-"let him go, for verily if thou wert to weigh him against the whole of his people, he would out-weigh them all." his (foster) brother seeing this, ran screaming to his mother, who with her husband hastened to the spot and found the lad pale and affrighted." Katib al Wackidi, p. 20 ½.

Hishami and other later writers add that her husband concluded that he had "Had a fit,"- -and advised her to take him home to his mother. Arrived at Mecca, she confessed after some hesitation what had occurred. "Ah!" exclaimed Amina, "didst thou fear that a devil had possessed him?"- . - She proceeded to say that such could never be the case with a child whose birth had been preceded and followed by so many prodigies, and recounted them in detail. Then she added, "leave him with me and depart in peace, and heaven direct thee!" From this Sprenger rightly concludes (p.78) that according to Hishami the child did not return with Halima; but Wackidi explicitly states the reverse.

This legend is closely connected with Sura xciv. v.1. "have WE not opened thy breast?" - i.e. given thee relief. These words were afterwards construed literally into an actual opening, or

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apprehensions of Halima and her husband were aroused; for Arab superstition was wont to regard the subject of such ailments as under the influence of an evil spirit. They resolved to rid themselves of the charge, and Halima carried the child back to its mother. With some difficulty, Amina obtained from her an account of what had happened, calmed her fears, and entreated her to resume the care of her boy. Halima loved her foster-child, and was not unwillingly persuaded to take him once more to her encampment. There she kept him for about a year longer, and watched him so closely that she would not suffer him to move out of her sight. But uneasiness was again excited by fresh symptoms of a suspicious nature; and she set out finally to restore the boy to his mother, when he was about five years

splitting up, of his chest; and, coupled with other sayings of Mahomet as to mis being cleansed from the taint of sin, were wrought up into the story given above.

It is possible, also, that Mahomet may have himself given a more developed nucleus for the legend, desiring thereby to enhance the superstitious attachment of his people, and conveniently referring the occasion of the cleansing and its romantic accompaniments to this early fit. But we cannot, with any approach to certainty, determine whether any and if so what part of the legend, owes its paternity to Mahomet directly; or whether it has been entirely fabricated out of the verse of the Coran referred to, and other metaphorical assertions of cleansing, construed literally.

Other traditions hold that his chest was opened, and his heart cleansed, by the angels as above described, in adult life close by the Kaaba. It is enough to have shown what appears to be the origin of these mythical stories.

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of age31. As she readied the outskirts of Mecca, the little Mahomet strayed, and she could not find him. In her perplexity she repaired to Abd al Muttalib, and he sent one of his sons to aid her in the search; the little boy was discovered wandering in Upper Mecca, and restored to his mother32.

Advantages gained by Mahomet by his early residence among the Bedouins

If we are right in regarding the attacks which alarmed Halima as fits of a nervous or epileptic nature, they exhibit in the constitution of Mahomet the normal marks of those excited states and ecstatic

31 When Halima took back the child to Mecca after its first attack, sine told Amina that nothing but sheer necessity would make her part with it: Katib al Wackidi, p. 204. After some persuasion she took him back with her, and kept him close in sight. But she was again startled (as the legend goes) by observing a cloud attendant upon the child, sheltering him from the sun, moving as he moved, and stopping when he stopped. This alarmed her If there be any truth in the tradition, it probably implies a renewal of symptoms of the former nature.

It appears extremely probable that these legends originated in some species of fact. One can hardly conceive their fabrication out of nothing, even admitting that the 94th Sura, and other metaphorical expressions, may have led to the marvellous additions.

I have given in the text what appears to me the most probable narrative: but it must be confessed that the ground on which we here stand is vague and uncertain.

32 Katib al Wackidi, p. 20 ½ and 21. Hishami makes the person who found him to be the famous Waraca; but Wackidi represents Abd al Muttalib as sending one of his grandsons to the search. The latter also gives some verses purporting to be Abd al Muttalib's prayer to the deity at the Kaaba to restore the child; but they appear to be apocryphal.

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swoons which perhaps suggested to his own mind the idea of inspiration, as by his followers they were undoubtedly taken to be evidence of it. It is probable that, in other respects, the constitution of Mahomet was rendered more robust, and his character more free and independent, by his five years residence among the Bani Saad. At any rate his speech was thus formed upon one of the purest models of the beautiful language of the Peninsula; and it was his pride in after days to say, - "Verily, I am the most perfect Arab amongst you; my descent is from the Coreish, and my tongue is the tongue of the Bani Saad33. When his eloquence began to form an important element towards his success, a pure language and an elegant dialect were advantages of essential moment.

Mahomet's grateful remembrance of his nurse, Halima

Mahomet ever retained a grateful impression of the kindness he had experienced as a child among the Bani Saad. Halima visited him at Mecca after his marriage with Khadija. "It was" (the tradition runs) "a year of drought, in which much cattle perished; and Mahomet spake to Khadija, and she gave to Halima a camel vised to a litter, and forty sheep; so she returned to her people." Upon another occasion he spread out iris mantle for her to sit upon,

33 Katib al Wackidi, p. 21; Hishami, p. 34. Sprenger translates the opening verse: "I speak best Arabic," (p. 77); but it has probably a more extensive signification.

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----- a token of especial respect, - and placed his hand upon her in a familiar and affectionate manner34. Many years after when, on the expedition against Taif, he attacked the Bani Hawazin and took a multitude of them captive, they found ready access to his heart by reminding him of the days when he was nursed among them35. About the same time a woman called Shima (by others Judama) was brought in with some other prisoners to the camp. When they threatened her with their swords, she (leered that she was the prophet's foster-sister. Mahomet enquired how he should know the truth

34 , Katib al Wackidi p. 21. It is added that Abu Bakr and Omar treated her with equal honor, omitting however the, actions of familiar affection referred to in the extract just quoted ; but to what period this refers is not apparent; for she could hardly have survived to their Caliphate. Indeed she appears to have died before the taking of Mecca and siege of Taif.

Modern tradition makes her tomb to be in the cemetery of Al Backi at Medina, which seems improbable. Burton, vol. ii. p. 308.

35 Katib al Wackidi, pp. 21, 131; Hishami, p.379. The deputation from the Bani Hawazin contained Mahomet's foster uncle Abu Tharwan. Pointing to the enclosure in which the captives of their tribe were pent up, they said: - "There are imprisoned thy (foster) relatives, thy aunts both maternal and paternal, thy nurses, and those that have fondled thee in their bosom. And we have suckled thee from our breasts. Verily we have seen thee a suckling, and never a better suckling than thou; and a weaned child, and never a better weaned child than thou; and we have seen thee a youth and never a better youth than thou," &C And the heart of Mahomet was touched.

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of this, and she replied : - "Thou gavest me this bite upon my back, once upon a time when I carried thee on my hip." The prophet recognized the mark, spread his mantle over her, and made her to sit down by him. He gave her the option of remaining in honour and dignity with him, but she she preferred to return with a present to her people36.

In his sixth year his mother takes him to Medina, 575-6 A.D.

The sixth year of his life Mahomet spent at Mecca under the care of his mother. When it was nearly at an end she planned a visit to Medina, where site longed to show her boy to the maternal relatives of his father. So she departed with her slave girl Omm Ayman (Baraka,) who tended the child; and they rode upon two camels37. Arrived in Medina, she alighted at the house of Nabigha, where her husband had died and was buried. The visit was of sufficient duration to imprint the scene and the society upon the memory of the juvenile Mahomet.

Reminiscences of the visit

He used in later day's to call to recollection things that happened oil this occasion. Seven and forty years afterwards when he entered Medina as a refugee, he recognized the lofty quarters of the

36 Katib al Wackidi, p. 20 1/2; Hishami, p. 379. It is added "the Bani Saad say that he also gave her a male and a female slave; and that she united them in marriage, but they left no issue."

37 The number of the party is not staled; but there would be one if not two camel drivers, and perhaps a guide besides.

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Bani Adi, and said----" In this house I sported with Aynasa, a little girl of Medina; and with my cousins, I used to put to flight the birds that alighted upon the roof." As he gazed upon the mansion, he added, - "here it was my mother lodged with me; in this very place is the tomb of my father; and it was there, in that well38, of the Bani Adi, that I learnt to swim."

Death of Amina, and return of Mahomet to Mecca

After Sojourning at Medina about a month, Amina bethought her of returning to Mecca, and set out in the same manner as she had come. But when she had reached about half way a spot called Abwa, she fell sick and died; and she was buried there. The little orphan was carried upon the camels to Mecca by his nurse Baraka (Omm Ayman) who, although then quite a girl, was a faithful nurse to the child, and continued to be his constant attendant.

Impression produced by his mother's death

The early loss of his mother, around whom his constant heart and impressible affections had entwined themselves, no doubt imparted to the youthful death. Mahomet something of that pensive and meditative diameter by which he was afterwards distinguished. In his seventh year he could appreciate the bereavement, and feel the desolation of his orphan state. In the Coran he has alluded touchingly to the subject. While re-assuring his heart of the divine favour, he recounts the mercies of the Almighty; and amongst them the first is this, - "Did he not

38 Or pond.

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Grief on visiting her tomb in after-life

find thee an orphan, and furnished thee with a refuge39?" On his pilgrimage from Medina to Hodeibia he visited his mother's tomb, and he lifted up his voice and wept, and his followers likewise wept around turn. And they asked him concerning it, and he said, ---- "This is the grave of my mother: the Lord hath permitted me to visit it. And I sought leave to pray for her, but it was not granted. So I called my mother to remembrance, and the tender memory of her overcame me, and I wept40".

Abd al Muttalib undertakes the charge of the orphan A.D. 576.

The charge of the orphan was now undertaken by his grandfather Abd al Muttalib, who had by this time reached the patriarchal age of four-score

39 Sura xciii. v. 6.

40 The whole of this account is from the Katib al Wackidi, p 21 ½ ; where is added the following tradition : - After the conquest of Mecca, Mahomet sat down by his mother's tomb, and the people sat around him, and he had the appearance of one holding a conversation with another. Then he got up, weeping; and Omar said, Oh thou to whom I would sacrifice father and mother! Why dost thou weep? He replied : - This is the tomb of my mother : the Lord hath permitted me to visit it, and I asked leave to implore pardon for her, and it was not granted; so I called her to remembrance; and the tender recollection of her came over me, and I wept. And he was never seen to weep more bitterly than he did then." But Wackidi's Secretary says this tradition is a mistake; for it supposes the tomb of Mahomet's mother to be in Mecca, whereas it is at Abwa. The prohibition, however, against praying for his mother's salvation is, given in other traditions, and seems well supported. It forms a singular instance and severity of the dogmas of Mahomet in respect of those who died in ignorance of their faith.

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years. The child was treated by him with singular fondness. A rug used to be spread under the shadow of the Kaaba, and on it the aged chief reclined in shelter from the heat of the sun. Around the carpet, but at a respectful distance, sat his sons. The little Mahomet was wont to run close up to the patriarch, and unceremoniously take possession of his rug; his sons would seek to drive him off; but Abd al Muttalib would interpose saying, "Let my little son alone," stroke him on the back, and delight to watch his childish prattle. The boy was still under the care of his nurse Baraka; but he would ever and anon quit her, and run into the apartment of his grandfather even when he was alone or asleep41.

Abd al Muttalib dies, 578 A.D

The guardianship of Abd al Muttalib lasted but two years, for he died eight years after the attack of Abraha, at the mature old age of four Score years and two. The orphan child felt bitterly the loss of his indulgent grandfather42; as he followed the bier to the cemetery of Hajun, he was seen to weep; and

41 Hishami, p. 35; Katib al Wackidi, p. 22. Many incidents are added to the narrative, taken evidently from the point of view of later years. Thus Abd al Muttalib says : ---- "Let him alone for he has a great destiny, and will be the inheritor of a kingdom;" . - Wackidi adds the injunction which the nurse Baraka used to receive from the patriarch ; - Beware lest thou let him fall into the hands of the Jews and Christians, for they are looking out for him, and would injure him!

42Katib al Wackidi p. 22, where it is said that Mahomet was eight years of age, when his grandfather died eighty-eight years

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when he grew up, he retained a distinct remembrance of his death. The gentle, warm, and confiding heart of Mahomet was thus again rudely wounded, and the fresh bereavement was rendered more poignant by the dependent position in which it left him. The nobility of his grandfather's descent, the deference with which his voice was listened to throughout out the vale of Mecca, and his splendid liberality in discharging the annual offices of providing the pilgrims with food and drink, were witnessed with satisfaction by the thoughtful child; null when they had passed away, we may believe that they left behind them a proud remembrance, and formed the seed perhaps of many an ambitious thought, and many a day-dream of power and domination.

Loss to the family of Hashim occasioned by the death of Abd al Muttalib

The death of Abd al Muttalib left the children of Hashim (his father) without any powerful head; while it enabled the other branch, descended by Omeya from Abd Shams, to gain an ascendency. Of the latter family the chief at this time was Harb, the father of Abu Sofian, who held the Leadership in war, and was followed by a numerous and powerful body of relations.

old. Others make Abd al Muttalib to have been 110, and some over 120, years old at his death. M. C. de Perceval has shown the futility of these traditions, which would make the patriarch to have begotten Hamza at an age or above 100 years. Vol. i, p. 200, note 4.

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The sons of Abd at Muttalib

Of Abd al Muttalib's sons, Harith the eldest was now dead; the chief of those who survived were Zobeir43 and Abu Talib (both by the same mother as Abdallah the father of Mahomet,) Abu Lahab, Abbas, and Hamza. The two last were very young. Zobeir was the oldest, and to him Abd al Muttalib bequeathed his dignity and offices44. Zobeir, again, left them to Abu Talib; who, finding himself too

Abu Talib and Abbas

poor to discharge the expensive and onerous task of providing for the pilgrims, waived the honor in favour of his younger brother Abbas. But the family of Hashim had fallen from its high estate; for Abbas was able to retain only the Sickaya (or giving of drink), while the Rifada (or furnishing of food) passed into the rival branch descended from Noufal son of Abd Menaf45. Abbas was rich, and

43 Katib al Wackidi, p. 17.

44 Ibid. and p. 154. Zobeir evidently held a high rank at Mecca, but how long he survived is not apparent. Wackidi says of him - "he was a poet, and of noble rank, and Abd al Muttatlib made him his heir:"

45 Hishami states only that Abbas inherited the Sickaya, (p.35); and subsequent history gives proof that he held nothing wore. The authority for holding that the branch of Noufal possessed the Rifada is given by M.C. de Perceval as derived from D'Ohsson. I have not succeeded in tracing it to any early Arabic writer. Abbas did not inherit the Sickaya till Zobeir's death, when he would be old enough to manage it. M. C. de Perceval makes him succeed to it immediately after Abd al Muttalib's death; but this is opposed to tradition as well as probability, for he was then only twelve years of age.

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his influential post, involving the constant charge of the well Zam-zam, was retained by him till the introduction of Islam, and then confirmed to his family by the prophet; but he was not a man of strong character, and never attained to a commanding position at Mecca. Abu Talib on the other hand, possessed many noble qualities, and won greater respect; but, whether from poverty, or other cause, he too remained in the back ground. It was thus that in the oscillations of phylarchical government, the prestige of the house of Hashim had begun to wane, and nearly disappear; while a rival branch was rising to importance. This phase of the political state of Mecca began with the death of Abd al Muttalib, and continued until the conquest of the city by Mahomet himself.

Abu Talib undertakes the guardianship of Mahomet

To his son Abu Talib, the dying Abd al Muttalib consigned the guardianship of his orpan grandchild and faithfully anid kindly did Abu Talib discharge the trust. His fondness for the lad equaled that of Abd al Muttalib46. He made him sleep by his bed,

46 Katib al Wackidi, p. 22. The disposition to magnify the child is as manifest here as before. There is added this marvelous incident, connected with Abu Talib's scanty means, that the family always rose from their frugal meal hungry and unsatisfied if Mahomet were not present; but when he dined with them, they were not only satisfied, but had victuals to spare. The other children used to run about with foul eyes and disheveled hair, whereas the little Mahomet's head was always sleek and his eyes clean. There thus appears so continuous a tendency to glorify

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eat by his side, and go with him whenever he walked abroad. And this tender treatment he continued until Mahomet emerged from the helplessness of Childhood47.

Mahomet at twelve years of age accompanies Abu Talib on an expedition to Syria, 582 A.D.

It was during this period that Abu Talib, accompanied by Mahomet, undertook a mercantile journey or to Syria. He intended to leave the child behind, for he was now twelve years of age, and able to take care of himself But when the caravan was ready to depart, and Abu Talib about to mount his camel, his nephew, overcome by the prospect of so long a separation, clung to his protector. Abu Talib was moved, and carried the boy along with him. The expedition extended to Bostra, perhaps farther. It lasted for several months, and afforded to the young Mahomet opportunities of observation, which were not lost upon him. He passed near to Petra, Jerash, Ammon, and other ruinous sites of former mercantile grandeur; arid the sight, no doubt, deeply

Impressions probably excited by this journey

imprinted upon his reflective mind the instability of earthly greatness. The wild story of the valley of Hejer, with its lonely deserted habitations hewn out

the nascent prophet, that it becomes hard to decide which of these statements to accept as facts, and which to reject. Vide Canons I. c. and II d. in Chap. I. of the Introduction.

47 The reason given for Mahomet being entrusted to Abu Talib, is, that his father Abdallah was brother to Abu Talib by the same mother. Tabari, p 59; but so was Zobeir also.

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of the rock, and the tale of divine vengeance against the cities of the plain over which now rolled the billows of the Dead Sea, would excite apprehension and awe; while their strange and startling details, rendered more tragic by Jewish tradition and local legend, would win and charm the childish heart, ever yearning after the marvellous. On this journey too, he passed through several Jewish settle- ments, and came in contact with the national profession of Christianity in Syria. Hitherto he had witnessed only the occasional and isolated exhibition of the faith: now he saw its rites in full and regular performance by a whole community; the national and the social customs founded upon Christianity; the churches with their crosses, images, or pictures, and other symbols of the faith; the ringing of bells ; the frequent assemblages for worship. The reports, and possibly an actual glimpse, of the continually recurring ceremonial, effected, we may suppose, a deep impression upon him; and this impression would be rendered all the more practical and lasting by the sight of whole tribes, Arab like himself, converted to the same faith, and practising the same observances. However fallen and materialized may have been the Christianity of that day in Syria, it must have struck the thoughtful observer in favorable and wonderful contrast with the gross and unspiritual idolatry of Mecca. Once again, in mature life, Mahomet visited

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Syria48, and whatever reflections of this nature were then awakened would receive an augmented force,

48 The account of this journey is given by all the biographers, with many ridiculous details anticipative of Mahomet's prophetical dignity. The following is the gist of them: -

The youthful Mahomet, with the rest of the caravan, alighted under a tree by the roadside, close to a monastery or hermitage occupied by a monk called Bahira. The monk perceived by a cloud which hovered over the company, by the boughs bending to shelter one of them, and by other marvellous tokens, that the party contained the prophet expected shortly to arise. He therefore invited them to an entertainment. But when they had assembled, he perceived that the object of his search was not amongst them. Upon his enquiring where the wanting guest was, they sent out for Mahomet, who on account of his youth had been left to watch the encampment. Bahira questioned him, examined his body to discover the seal of prophecy, and found it plainly impressed upon his back. He then referred to his sacred books, found all the marks to correspond, and declared the boy to be the expected apostle. He proceeded to warn Abu Talib against the Jews, who he said would at once recognize the child as the coming prophet, and out of jealousy seek to slay him. Aba Talib was alarmed, and forthwith set out for Mecca with his nephew.

The fable contains so many absurdities as to excite contempt and mistrust for traditional collections everywhere abounding in such tales. A clue to the religious principle which engendered them may perhaps be found in Canon II. G. chap. i. of the Introduction.

Dr. Sprenger thinks that Aba Talib sent back Mahomet under charge of Bahira to Mecca (Life, p.79); and grounds his deduction on the phrase, - at p. 2 1/2 of Wackidi. But this expression may actually signify, "Abu Talib took him back with himself to Mecca; and this meaning is undoubtedly the one intended.

The subject has been discussed in the Zeitschrift der deutschen mörgenlandischen Gesellachaft, vol. iii. p. 454, and vol. iv.

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and a deeper colouring, from the vivid pictures and bright imagery which, upon the same ground, had been impressed on the imagination of childhood.

pp. 188, 457, - where Professors Fleiseher and Wüstenfeld oppose Dr. Sprenger's view. Dr. Sprenger has written a reply in the Asiatic Society's Journal for 1853; where he has given in original the various authorities bearing upon the point. I. Tirmidzi says that Aub Talib sent Mahomet back from Syria by Abu Bakr and Bilal; which (as Sprenger shows) is absurd, seeing that the former was two years younger than Mahomet, and the latter not then born. II. Hishami makes Abu Talib himself return with Mahomet, after concluding his business at Bostra. III. The Katib al Wackidi gives several traditions - One in which the monk, immediately after warning Abu Talib to make Mahomet return without loss of time to Mecca, expires; and the Second, that quoted above, upon which Dr. Sprenger so much relies. Katib al Wackidi, p. 22 ½. But he has omitted a Third detailed account of the journey, which is given in the same volume, on the authority of Muhammad ibn Omar, i.e. Wackidi himself. It is full of marvellous statements, and ends with distinctly saying that Abu Talib returned to Mecca with Mahomet. , - Katib al Wackidi, p. 29. This may have escaped Dr. Sprenger's notice, as it occurs under another chapter in Wackidi, i.e. the "Marks of Prophecy in Mahomet." So also Tabari, p.60; -

But Dr. Sprenger goes further. He suspects that the monk not only accompanied Mahomet to Mecca, but remained there with him. And as he finds the name Bahira in the list of a deputation from the Abyssinian king to Mahomet forty years afterwards at Medina, he concludes the two to have been one and the same person; and he thinks that the early Mahometan writers endeavored to conceal the fact, as one discreditable to their prophet. The conjecture is ingenious, but the basis on which it rests appears to me wholly insufficient. It is besides inconsistent with the general character of the early traditionists, who reverentially preserved every trait of the Prophet handed down to them. Facts, no doubt,

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No further incident of a special nature is related of Mahomet, until he had advanced from childhood to youth49.

were sometimes omitted, and stories died out, but on different grounds. See Canon II. L. in Chap. i. in the Introduction.

Some Arabs will have it that this monk was called Jergis (Geolgius). Christian apologists call him Sergius.

49 Weil states that in his sixteenth year Mahomet journeyed to Yemen with his uncle Zobeir, on a mercantile trip, (p. 69). Dr. Sprenger (p. 79, note 3) says that there is no good authority for this statement, and I cannot find any original authority for it at all. The expression with respect to Abu Talib, - "that he never undertook a journey, unless Mahomet were with him," might possibly imply that he undertook several journeys; but in the absence of any express instance, it cannot be held alone to be sufficient proof that he did. So it is said that "Abu Talib never took him again upon a journey, after this Syrian expedition, fearing lest injury should befal him," - Katib al Wackidi p. 29. But the sentence is a mere pendant to the absurd story of the Jews recognizing in Mahomet the coming prophet, and seeking to be in wait for his life, and therefore carries no weight. The chief reason for supposing that this was Mahomet's only mercantile journey (besides the one subsequently undertaken for Khadija,) is that, had he undertaken any other, we should indubitably have had many special notices of it in Wackidi, Hishami, and Tabari. Their silence can only be accounted for on the supposition that there was no other journey.

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