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Embassies to various Sovereigns and Princes.

A.H. VII. A.D. 627.

Glance at the state of the Roman and Persian Empires

A brief glance at the state of the Roman and Persian Empires may now be necessary, to connect the salient points of their external history with the career of Mahomet.

Struggles between the Roman empire and Persia, A.D. 609-627

From a period as far back as his assumption by Mahomet of the Prophetic office, the two kingdoms had been waging with each other a ceaseless and deadly warfare. Until the year 621 A.D. unvarying success attended the Persian arms. Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor, were overrun. Constantinople itself was threatened. At last, Heraclius awoke from his inglorious lethargy. About the time of Mahomet's flight

A.D. 622., A.H. I

from Mecca, the Roman Emperor was driving his invaders from their fastnesses in Asia Minor. In

A.D. 623-625., A.H. II.-IV.

the second campaign he carried the war into the heart of Persia; during the three years in which, by this brilliant stroke, he was retrieving the fortunes of the Empire, Mahomet was engaged in his doubtful struggle with the Coreish.

July, 626.

Then came the critical siege of Constantinople by the Avars and Persians, which preceded, by little more than half a

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year, the siege of Medina known as the battle of the Ditch.

March, 627.

It is curious to remark that, while the Moslems attributed the sudden departure of Abu Sofian and his Arab hosts, to the special interposition of the Almighty, the Romans equally ascribed their signal deliverance from the hordes of the Chagan, to the favour of the Virgin.

A.D. 627. A.H. VI

In the third campaign, Heraclius followed up his previous success, and on the 1st December, 627, achieved the decisive victory of Nineveh. In this action the forces of Persia were irretrievably broken and dispersed. On, the 20th of that month, the Chosroes fled from his capital.

Feb., March 628, Dzul Cada, VI.

Before the close of February, 628, he was murdered by his son Siroes, who ascended the throne, and concluded a treaty of peace with the Emperor. About the same epoch, Mahomet was at Hodeibia, ratifying his truce with the chiefs of Mecca.

I. Despatch of Mahomet to Heralius, A.D. 628, A.H. VII

In the autumn of this year, Heraclius fulfilled his vow of thanksgiving for the wonderful success which had crowned his arms; he performed on foot the pilgrimage from Edessa to Jerusalem, where the "true cross;" recovered from the Persians, was with solemnity and pomp restored to the Holy Sepulchre. 1 While preparing for this journey, or during the

1 The note by Weil, No.309, p.198, on the chronology of this journey, appears to me clearly to fix it in August, 628, and not (as usually placed) in the spring of 629. I refer the reader to that note, as, having no fresh authorities available for research, I could only recapitulate the arguments of Weil.

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journey itself, an uncouth despatch, in the Arabic character, was laid before Heraclius. It was forwarded by the Governor of Bostra, into whose hands it had been delivered by an Arab chief. The epistle was addressed to the Emperor himself, from "Mahomet the Apostle of God," the rude impression of whose seal could be deciphered at the foot. In strange and simple accents, like those of the Prophets of old, it summoned Heraclius to acknowledge the mission of Mahomet, to cast aside the idolatrous worship of Jesus and his Mother, and to return to the Catholic faith of the one only God.1 The letter

Arab writers, in order to give sufficient time for the miraculous intimation by Mahomet of the death of Chosroes, place that event on the 13th of the first Jumad, A.H. VII., or 21st August 628. But the details of the Greek historians, and the despatch of Heraclius to the senate of Constantinople, inserted in the Chronicon Paschale, leave no doubt as to the dates in the text.

Supposing the embassies to have started from Medina during the 1st Rabi (see the last note in the preceding chapter), i.e. in June or July, the despatch would reach Heraclius on his journey, as represented by tradition. If we take the earlier date of Moharram (April, May,) for their despatch, it is open for us to suppose some delay on the road.

1The terms of the despatches are quite uncertain. The draughts of them given by tradition, with the replies, are apocryphal. (But see below as to the Egyptian Despatch.) The ordinary copy of the letter to Heraclius contains a passage from the Coran which, as Weil shows, was not given forth till the ninth year of the Hegira (note, No. 309.) The passage was apparently inserted by the Traditionists as being a probable and an appropriate address from their Prophet to a Christian king.

Dehya, the bearer of this despatch, was desired by Mahomet to forward it through the governor of Bostra. K. Wackidi p.60.

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was probably cast aside, or preserved, it may be, as a strange curiosity, the effusion of some harmless fanatic.1

II. Despatch to the Ghassinide Prince

Not long after, another despatch, bearing the same seal, and couched in similar terms, reached the court of Heraclius. It was addressed to Harith seventh, son of Abu Shammir, Prince of the Bani Ghassan 2 who forwarded it to the Emperor, with an address from himself, soliciting permission to chastise the audacious impostor.3 But Heraclius,

1Tradition of course has another story. "Now the Emperor was at this time at Hims, performing a pedestrian journey, in fulfilment of the vow which he had wade that, if the Romans overcame the Persians, he would travel on foot from Constantinople to Aelia (Jerusalem). So having read the letter, he commanded his chief men to meet him in the royal camp at Hims. And thus he addressed them : - "Ye chiefs of Rome! Do ye desire safety and guidance, so, that your kingdom shall be firmly established, and that ye may follow the commands of Jesus, son of Mary?" "And what, O King I shall secure us this?" -"Even that ye follow the Arabian Prophet," said Heraclius. Whereupon they all started aside like wild asses of the desert, each raising his cross and waving it aloft in the air. Whereupon, Heraclius, despairing of their conversion, and unwilling to lose his kingdom, desisted, saying that he had only wished to test their constancy and faith, and that he was now satisfied and rejoiced by this display of firmness and devotion. The courtiers bowed their heads; and so the Prophet's despatch was rejected." K. Wackidi, p. 50.

2 See vol. i p. clxxxviii.

3 Tradition tells us that the messenger of Mahomet found Harith the gardens of Damascus, busied with preparations for the reception of the Emperor, who was shortly expected thereon his way to Jerusalem. He waited at the gate of Harith three or four days,

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regarding the ominous voice from Arabia beneath his notice, forbade the expedition, and desired that Harith should be in attendance at Jerusalem, to swell the imperial train at the approaching visitation of the Temple. Little did the Emperor imagine that the kingdom which, unperceived by the world, the obscure Pretender was founding in Arabia, would in a few short years wrest from his grasp that Holy City and the fair provinces which,with so much toil, and so much glory, he had just recovered from the Persians!

III. Despatch of the King of Persia

The despatch for the king of Persia reached the court probably some months after the accession of Siroes. It was delivered to the Monarch, who, on bearing the contents, tore it in pieces. When this was reported to Mahomet, he prayed, and said:-

as audiences were granted only at certain intervals. miring this delay, he communicated to the Porter information about Mahomet and his doctrine. The Porter wept and said, "I read the Gospel, and I find therein the description of this Prophet exactly as thou tellest me:" thereupon he embraced Islam, and sent his salutation to the Prophet. The story is in the stereotyped form of traditional fabrication.

On a set day, Harith, sitting in state, called for the messenger, and had the Despatch read. Then he cast it aside and said, ---- "Who is he that will snatch my kingdom from me? I will march against him, were he even in Yemen." He became very angry, and having called out his army in battle array, said to the messenger,

"Go, tell thy master that which thou seest." The messenger, however, was afterwards permitted to wait for the reply of Heraclius: on its receipt, Harith dismissed him with a present of one hundred mithcals of gold. When the messenger reported what had passed,

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"Even thus, O Lord! rend thou his kingdom from him!"1

Conversion of Hadzan, governor of Yemen, End of A.H. VI. Beginning of A.D. 628

Connected with the court of Persia, but of date somewhat earlier than this despatch, is a remarkable incident, which was followed by results of considerable importance. A few months before his overthrow, Chosroes, receiving strange reports of the prophetical claims of Mahomet, and of the depredations committed on the Syrian border by his marauding bands, sent orders to Badzan, the Persian governor of Yemen, to despatch two trusty men to Medina, and procure for him certain information regarding the Pretender. Badzan obeyed, and with the messengers sent a courteous despatch to Mahomet. By the time they arrived at Medina, tidings had reached the Prophet of the deposition and death of Chosroes. When the despatch, therefore, was read before him, he smiled at its contents, and summoned the ambassadors

the Prophet said that the kingdom had departed from Harith; and so Harith died the following year. K.Wackidi, 50 ˝.

1 Tradition makes all this apply to Chosroes, whose deposition is accordingly postponed till the first Jumid, or August. But the dates are clear; Chosroes died six months before ;-see note 1 above, p.50.

We must either adopt the version in the text, with the reception of the despatched by Siroes, and not by Chosroes; or suppose the embassy to have been despatched previous to the expedition of Hodeibia. And it is far less likely that tradition should be mistaken as to the chronology of the departure of the messengers from Medina, than as to the chronology and history of the distant court of Persia.

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to embrace Islam. He then apprised them of the murder of Chosroes, and the accession of his son ;- "Go;" said he, "inform your master of this, and require him to tender his submission to the Prophet of the Lord." The glory of Persia had now departed. She had long ago relaxed her grasp upon Arabia;1 and the governor of Yemen was free to choose a protectorate more congenial to his people. Badzan, the distance however of whose province from Medina rendered its subordination at first little more than nominal, was glad to recognize the rising fortunes of Islam, and signified his adhesion to the Prophet.2

1 I refer the reader to vol. i. p. clxxxiii.

2 The story of Badzan is surrounded with miracles and anachronisms. The order given by the monarch to him is made to follow, as its consequence, upon the receipt by Chosroes of Mahomet's despatch. But we have seen that the despatch itself did not leave Medina, till after the death of Chosroes. The message to Badzan must, therefore, have been anterior to, and independent of it. The order of Chosroes to Badzan would take some time to reach the distant province of Yemen, and the messengers of Badzan would be perhaps a month on the road to Medina; so that a sufficient interval is allowed not only for the revolution in Persia, but for notice of it to reach Mahomet in time for communication to the messengers. Intelligence or so important an event would be quickly obtained by Mahomet, and his reply may have been (in the disorganized state of the Persian empire) the first intimation of the news received by Badzan.

The messengers of Badzan would naturally be startled at the unexpected intelligence communicated by Mahomet; but, whether he really represented his knowledge of the fact as super -

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IV. Despatch to the governor of Egypt

The embassy to Egypt was received with courtesy by Muckouckas, the Roman governor. While refusing to admit the claims of the Prophet, he gave substantial proof of friendly feeling in the valuable presents which he forwarded to him, with this reply: - "I am aware;" he wrote, that a Prophet is yet to arise: but I am of opinion that he will appear in Syria. Thy messenger hath been received with honour. I send for thine acceptance two damsels, highly estimated among the Copts, a present of raiment, and a mule for thee to ride upon." Though Mahomet ascribed the unbelief of Muckouckas to sordid fear lest the government of Egypt should slip from his hands, yet he willingly accepted the gifts, which, indeed, were well adapted to his tastes. Mary, the fairest of the two Coptic sisters, was retained for his own harem; Shirin, the other, was presented to Hassan the Poet, who, since his reconciliation with Ayesha, had entirely regained the Prophet's favour. The mule was white,- a rarity

naturally obtained, it is impossible to decide. Probability is against such a supposition.

Tradition, as usual, invents a marvellous story out of all this. When the messenger: arrived, Mahomet dismissed them, we are told, and desired them to come on the morrow. Next day he addressed them thus:- "Tell your master that his lord, the Chosroes, hath been slain: the Lord delivered him into the hands of Shiruna his son, in this very night that bath just passed, the thirteenth of the first Jumad, at the seventh hour;"- which miraculous intimation being subsequently confirmed, was the occasion of Badzan's conversion. K. Wackidi, 50.

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in Arabia; it was greatly prized, and was constantly ridden by Mahomet.1

V. Despatch to the king of Abussinia

The court of Abyssinia stood in a different relation to Mahomet from that of any of the courts to which he addressed his apostolical summons. There his followers had found, fifteen years before, a secure and hospitable retreat from the persecutions of the Coreish; and although about forty of

1 The Egyptian governor must have shrewdly apprehended the weakness of Mahomet, when he sent him these two slave girls ;- a strange present, however, for a Christian governor to make. The messenger was treated kindly: he was not kept waiting at the gate, and was not detained more than five days.

Though I have copied this reply from the Secretary of Wackidi (p.50), I should note that the expressions are evidently from oral tradition only.

In the Journal Asiatique for December 1854 (p.482), M. Reinaud has given an interesting account or a curious discovery by M. Barthelémy of a parchment found within the binding of a Coptic manuscript, which bears some marks of being the original despatch of Mahomet to Muckouckas. The impression of a seal, with the required words decipherable on it, given an air of possibility to the conjecture. The process, however, of detaching the parchment from the overlying materials in the binding, has rendered the forms of most of the letters, as show; in the facsimile, very indistinct. The opening words and a few others appropriate to the despatch are recognizable. But without farther consideration, it would be rash to entertain the hypothesis, or to draw any conclusions from the few legible words. I may notice that the MS. cannot be drawn into exact correspondence with the ordinary forms of this letter, as given by tradition. But this is no argument against its genuineness; for as already stated, I believe the forms given by tradition of all these despatches to be apocryphal,- though they probably contain some of the sentiments and expressions of the originals.

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these exiles had rejoined the Prophet after his flight to Medina, fifty or sixty were still left behind, who during all this time had enjoyed the protection of the Abyssinian Prince.1 Amr ibn Omeya was now the bearer of two despatches to him.2 One was couched in language like that addressed to the other Christian kings; and to this the Najashy is said to have replied in terms of humble acquiescence,- embracing the new faith, and mourning over his inability to join in person the standard of the Prophet.3 The answer was entrusted to the care of Jafar, son of Aba Talib, Mahomet's cousin, who was

1 See vol. ii. p.161; Hashami (p. 346) gives the names of twenty-six persons, men, women, and children, who now returned from Abyssinia, sixteen being men. But unless we suppose that any of the Refugees still remained behind in Abyssinia, which is very unlikely, or (which is more probable) that during the intervening six years other parties returned to Medina, the numbers were what I state in the text. There must have been occasional communications between the exiles and Medina; for Mahomet had evidently received intimation of Obeidallah's death, and apparently also of his widow's willingness to marry him.

2 This is the person repeatedly mentioned above, as a noted assassin.

3 I have, in a note to vol. ii. p.172, given grounds for doubting the conversion of the Najashy. See also Weil's note, No.305, p.196. It was quite possible for a Christian Prince, more especially if he belonged to an Arian or Nestorian sect, and had seen or heard only certain portions of the Coran, - those for example containing strong attestations of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, exhortations against idolatry, &c. to have expressed an assent to the vague terms or Mahomet's epistle. For the efforts of the various Christian sects to gain over the Abyssinians, see Gibbon, chapter xlvii.

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Omm Habiba betrothed to Mahomet

still an exile at the Abyssinian court. In the second despatch, the Prophet begged that his remaining followers might now be sent back to Medina; and the singular request was added that, before their departure, the Prince would betroth to him Omm Habiba, whose early charms still held a place in his imagination. The husband of Omm Habiba was Obeidallah, one of the "Four Enquirers," who, as before related, after emigrating as a Mussulman to Abyssinia, had embraced Christianity there, and died in the profession of that faith.1 By this affiance Mahomet at once gratified his, passion for fresh nuptials (he had been now a whole year without adding to his harem) ;2 and, perhaps, farther hoped to make Abu Sofian, the father of Omm Habiba, more favourable to his cause.

The Abyssinian refugees arrive at Medina. 1st Jumad, A.H. VII. August, A.D. 628

The Prince performed with readiness the part allotted to him in the ceremony.3 He also provided two ships for the exiles, on which they all embarked; and during the Autumn they reached Medina safely.4

VI. Despatch to the chief of Yemama

The the sixth messenger of Mahomet was sent to Haudza, the chief of a Christian tribe, the Bani

1 Sec vol. ii. pp.52, 109.

2 The last addition to the number of his consorts was Rihana, the Jewess, at the close of the fifth year of the Hegira.

3 The dower was four hundred dirhems. Khalid ibn Said was the guardian who gave her away. K. Wackidi 39 ˝, vol. ii. p.110.

4 They first made for Bowla on the Arabian shore, "which is the same as Al Jar;" then they reached Karnal Tzahar, and then Medina. K. Wackidi, 39 ˝ and 49 ˝.

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Hanifa, of Yemana. The messenger was hospitably entertained; and the chief, having presented him with changes of raiment and provisions for the journey home, dismissed him with this reply for his master, - "How excellent is that revelation to which thou invitest inc, and how beautiful! Know that I am the Poet of my tribe, and their Orator. The Arabs revere my dignity. Grant upto me a share in the rule, and I will follow thee." When Mahomet had read the answer he said:- "Had this man stipulated for an unripe date only, as his share in the land, I would not have consented. Let him perish, and his vain glory with him!" And so Haudza died, the tradition adds, in the following year.1

1 K. Wackidi, 50 ˝.

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