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Opening of the Eleventh Year of the Hegira April and May, 632, A.D.

The Pretenders who rise up against Mahomet

Opening of the Eleventh Year of the Hegira. 29th March A.D. 632

THE eleventh year of the Hegira opened in peacefulness at Medina. Mahomet was now chiefly occupied in the issue of despatches, the nomination of envoys and governors, and the consolidation of his authority in the more distant regions or Arabia. The native chiefs or princes were ordinarily maintained in the government of their respective territories when they were found suited to the Prophet's purpose. Instructors and collectors of the tithes were also deputed as his representatives, charged with political and judicial functions.

Death of Badzhan and division of his territories.

Badzan, the Persian governor who, as we have seen, had early submitted himself to Mahomet, died about this time. His son Shahr was continued in the government of Sana and the surrounding district. But the other provinces hitherto combined under his authority, as Mareb, Najran, and Hamadan were divided by Mahomet among different governors,

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of whom some were natives of the several districts, and others persons specially deputed from Medina.1

Three imposters arise claiming the prophetic office

But a new cause of danger began suddenly to cloud the horizon. Three claimants of the prophetic office arose, in various quarters of Arabia, to dispute with Mahomet the supreme authority. Their assumptions were not, however, developed till near the close of his life, and the tidings which he received of their proceedings were hardly of so grave a nature as to raise serious apprehensions in his mind. I shall not therefore do more than very briefly notice these remarkable impostors.

The moment propitious for such pretensions

Besides the temptation to follow in his steps occasioned by the marvellous success of Mahomet, the present moment was especially propitious for the assertion of such claims. The Bedouin tribes, and distant people who had but lately succumbed to Islam, began to find its rites irksome, and its restraints unpalatable. How deep and general was this feeling, is evident from the almost universal rebellion which followed the Prophet's death, and which probably would never have been fully stifled had not the energies and passions of the Arabs been directed to foreign conquest. Mahomet was now well stricken in years, and strangers might perceive in him the marks of advancing infirmity. His death could not be far distant. No provision had been

1 See detail of these in Tabari, p.58, et seq. (Kosegarten, 1831.)

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made for a successor, nor for the permanent maintenance at Medina of a supreme authority over the Peninsula. If any one were bold enough to assert that he had received a divine commission, like that of Mahomet, why should his efforts not be crowned with similar success?

Tuleiha His rebellion crushed by Khalid

The least important of the three impostors who now started up with these notions, was Tuleiha, chief of the Bani Asad, a warrior of note and influence in Najd.1 his tribe once journeying through the desert were overpowered by thirst, when Tuleiha announced to them that water would be found at a certain spot. The discovery confirmed his authority and the claims to inspiration which he had already made. Subsequent to the death of Mahomet he broke out into open rebellion, and was defeated, after a severe engagement, by Khalid 2.

Museilama. His advances indignantly rejected by Mahomet

Museilama has already been noticed as having accompanied the deputation of the Bani Hanifa to Medina.3 He was a man of small stature and of insignificant appearance, but ready and powerful in speech. Following the example of Mahomet, he gave forth verses, professed to have been received from heaven, and he pretended also to work

1 Vide vol. iii. p.199.

2 On Omar's summoning the conquered rebels to join his standard, Tuleiha submitted, and afterwards with his tribe fought bravely on the side of Islam.

2 See above, p.217.

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miracles.1 He claimed an authority and mission concurrent with that of the Prophet of Medina; and he deceived the people of Yemama by alleging that the claim had been admitted.2 Mahomet, hearing the rumour of his insolent pretensions, sent him a summons to submit to Islam.3 Museilama returned the reply that he, too, was a prophet like Mahomet himself:- "I demand therefore that thou divide the earth with me; as for the Coreish, they are a people that have no respect for justice" When this letter was read before him, Mahomet turned with indignation to the messengers:- "And what do ye yourselves say to this?" he asked "We say," they replied, "even as Museilama doth." "By the Lord!" exclaimed Mahomet, "if it were not that ambassadors are secure, and their lives inviolate, I would have beheaded both of you!" Then he indited the following answer -"I have received thine epistle, with its lies and its fabrications against God. Verily, the earth is the Lord's: He causeth such of his servants as he pleaseth to inherit the same. Prosperity shall attend the pious. Peace be to him that followeth

1 So Perceval, v. iii. p.310. He had learned the art of sleight of hand, &C. from conjurors. One of his miracles was to slip an egg into a narrow-mouthed phial. None of the verses attributed to him are worth quoting.

2 See the words of Mahomet which he is said to have drawn into this construction - above, p.217.

3 K. Wackidi 62 . The messenger was Amr ibn Omeya, the Dhamrite, whom we have met before.

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the true direction!1 The rebellion and the fate of Museilama belong to the Caliphate of Abu Bakr.

Rebellion of Aswad

Aswad, the third impostor, differed from the others, in not only advancing his pretensions, but in casting off the Mussulman yoke, while Mahomet was yet alive. A prince of wealth and influence, he assumed the garb of a magician, and gave out that he was in communication with the unseen world. He prosecuted his claims at the first secretly, and gained over those chiefs who were dissatisfied with the distribution of power made by Mahomet on the death of Badzan. About the close of the tenth year of the Hegira, he openly raised the standard of rebellion, and drove out the officers of Mahomet, who fled for refuge to the nearest friendly country. He advanced on Najran, winch rose in his favour; he then suddenly fell upon Sana, where having killed Shahr the son of Badzan, put his army to flight, and married his widow, he established himself in undisputed authority. The insurrection, fanned by this sudden success, spread like wild-fire, and the greater part of the Peninsula lying between the provinces of Bahrein, Taif, and the coast, was soon subject to the usurper.2

1 M. C. de Perceval relates that this letter was written after Mahomet had been prostrated by fever. I do not find this stated by the early biographers. Hishami makes the incident to occur at the end of the tenth year of the Hegira: p.186. It probably happened early in the eleventh year.

2 Tabari, p.56. The proper name of Aswad was Ayhala son

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crushed about the time of Mahomet's death

At what period intimation of this rebellion reached Mahomet, and what was the nature of the intelligence he received, is not apparent. The accounts could not have been very alarming, for he contented himself with despatching letters to his officers on the spot, in which he desired them according to their means, either to assassinate the pretender, or to attack him in battle.1 Fortunately for the cause of Islam, Aswad, in the pride of conquest, had already begun to slight the commanders to whose bravery he was indebted for his success. The agents of Mahomet opened up secret negotiations with them; and, favoured by the tyrant's wife, who detested him, and burned to avenge her late husband's death, plotted the assassination of Aswad. The usurper was slain, according to tradition, on the very night preceding the death of Mahomet.2 The insurrection immediately ceased;

of Kab, styled the Ausite, because he sprang from that tribe. He is also called Dzul Khimar, "the master of the ass," because it is said that he had an ass which used to make obeisance before him. According to others, the name is Dzul Himar, from the wizard's "veil", or "cloak" which he wore.

1 The officers describe this order thus, Tabari, p.58; the meaning of which I take to be as in the text.

2 The event occurred probably somewhat later. It is pretended that Mahomet had supernatural intimation of the Pretender's death on the night preceding his own p.56.

But elsewhere it is said that tidings of the success did not reach Abu Bakr till the close of the second Rabi, i.e. above a

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and, excepting the disquiet occasioned by some bands of the pretender's army which continued to infest the country, the authority of Mahomet's name was fully re-established.

month and a half after the Prophet's death. Tabari, p.74. News of such an event would travel swiftly, probably in not more than: a fortnight or three weeks at most. I am therefore inclined to believe that the overthrow of Aswad did not take place till several weeks after Mahomet's death ;-which supposition will likewise admit of the whole career of the impostor being dated later, and will explain why Mahomet and Aba Bakr had not earlier intimation of its alarming progress.

Tradition naturally clings to the miraculous supposition that Mahomet had supernatural information of the event before his decease; add hence antedates the event itself.

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