ACCORDING to the wont of the Arabs, the Infant Muhammad was made over to the charge of a slave woman: but after he had been suckled a few days, a party of wanderers from the desert arrived at Mecca with several women, who offered themselves as nurses for the infants of the city. Accordingly the child was placed in the hands of one of the matrons in question, by name Halima, and for five years he remained amongst the Bani Sad in the tents of his adopted parents. To this circumstance the Prophet of Arabia was indebted for the elegance of diction which contributed so much in after years towards the success of his mission. "Verily I am the most perfect Arab amongst you; my descent is from the Quraish, and my tongue is the tongue of the Bani Sad." Such was the boast of a man, conscious how much in his career was due to the beauty and sweetness of the language in which he clothed the thoughts, the expression of which gave life and vigour to the mission he proclaimed.
After remaining at Mecca for upwards of a year Muhammad was taken by his mother to Madina, but on the return home, after a sojourn of a month in the city, Amina, his mother, fell sick and died (A.D. 575). Whereupon the little orphan was carried back to his native city by his nurse Baraka, who handed him over to his grandfather, Abdu'l Muttalib, at that time a patriarch of fourscore years. "The child," says Sir
W. Muir, "was treated by him with singular fondness. A rug used to be spread under the shadow of the Kaba, and on it the aged chief reclined iii shelter from the heat of the sun. Around the carpet, but at a respectful distance, sat his sons. The little Muhammad 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 Abdu'l Muttalib would interpose, saying, 'Let my little son alone,' stroke him on the back, and delight to hear his childish prattle."
Thus passed an interval of two years, when the grandfather paid the debt of nature, having on his deathbed consigned the guardianship of his orphan grandchild to his son Abu Talib, who discharged his trust with most scrupulous care and diligence: indeed, he scarce ever allowed the lad to leave his side, and when he had occasion to undertake a mercantile journey to Syria, it needed but little persuasion on the part of the child, now twelve years old, to induce his benefactor to allow him to accompany the caravan.
The youth of Muhammad was spent amongst the hills and dales around Mecca, tending such sheep and goats as might from time to time be placed in his charge, the hire received being taken home to his uncle Abu Talib, whose slender resources stood in need of any assistance which the young shepherd could afford. But a change was at hand. Abu Talib determined that his nephew, who had reached his five-and twentieth birthday, should seek a more extended sphere of action. "I am, as thou knowest, a man of small substance, and truly the times deal hardly with me." Such was the noble but impoverished Quraishite's language. "Now here is a caravan of thine own tribe about to start for Syria, and Khadija, daughter of Quwailid, needeth men of our tribe to send forth with her merchandize. If thou wert to offer thyself she would readily accept thy services." So it happened that Muhammad betook himself to Syria, where he acquitted himself with sagacity and prudence. On his page 31
return he recounted to Khadija the tale of his doings, and the handsome widow, struck by the noble features and comely form of the young man before her, formed the resolution that her agent should, if thus it should chance, fill the more dignified portion of husband. It may well be imagined that the young man was nothing loth. Khadija was distinguished alike by birth and fortune, in that her father Quwailid was a direct and near descendant of the famous Qussai, while the considerable substance which she inherited by her former marriages had been increased by mercantile speculation. Added to this, she was handsome and fair to behold. But how could she expect her father to consent to the marriage. She, a matron whose hand had been sought by many a noble suitor from amongst the chiefs of the Quraish, while Muhammad was but poor and humble, with no pretensions and no prospects. The difficulty was, however, speedily overcome. The ready-witted widow prepared a feast at which she induced her father to partake somewhat freely of the good cheer provided for him. When matters were ripe, she artfully introduced the object of her adoration, and induced the old man to unite him in marriage with herself in the presence of a witness. Awakening to clearer consciousness the fond father was surprised to find himself surrounded by tokens of a nuptial feast. Still greater was his astonishment when he learned what had happened, and that he had given his consent to a match of which he did not approve.
This union proved the turning-point in Muhammad's career, as it not only removed from his path the necessity of living by the sweat of his brow, but afforded him time and opportunity to reflect upon, and bring into play those spiritual longings which for years had agitated his bosom. It was also emphatically a happy marriage, while, in spite of Khadija's somewhat mature age, no less than six children in due course gladdened the abode of the future Lawgiver of Arabia. The eldest offspring was a son, by name Kasim, then followed four
daughters in succession, Zainab, Rukayya, Fatima, and Umm Kalsum ; last of all was born his second son, Abdullah.
For a considerable period the tenour of Muhammad's life was smooth and uneventful, but when he was about five-and-thirty years old an incident occurred in his career, foreshadowing that marvellous power of turning to account the ordinary circumstances of life, which, in after times, gave him a command over the hearts of men such as has never been surpassed, rarely indeed equalled in the history of mankind. In A.D. 605, it had happened that a violent storm sweeping down the valley of Mecca, hurled destruction upon the sacred temple; while to add to the evil, the edifice being roofless, a band of robbers clambered over the walls and carried off some of the relics. Though these latter were recovered, it was resolved that measures should be taken to avoid similar dangers in the future; accordingly the Quraish, dividing themselves into four bodies, commenced to heighten the walls, of which one was assigned to each of the four sections of the tribe. In spite of the sacrilege of dismantling the holy fabric, so sacred in the eyes of a pious Arab, the work proceeded without interruption, until it became necessary to place the venerated "Black Stone" (to be hereafter described) in such a position in the Eastern Corner, that it could readily be kissed by the votaries who annually repaired to the temple. The honour of handling this most revered of relics was so great that each family of the Quraish advanced an exclusive pretension to the coveted privilege. The strife waxed warm, and the danger of bloodshed became imminent. It so happened that Muhammad one day chanced to pass through the midst, at a time when the various aspirants, unable to arrange their quarrel, had argued that the first person who entered by a certain gate of the city should be arbitrator in the matter; it thus fell to the lot of "Al Amin" (the faithful) as he was known amongst his kinsfolk, to decide
the dispute. "Calm and self-possessed," so writes the biographer of the Prophet of Arabia, "Muhammad received the commission, and, with his usual sagacity, at once resolved upon an expedient which should conciliate all. Taking off his mantle and spreading it upon the ground, he placed the stone thereon, and said, 'Now let one from each of your four divisions come forward, and raise a corner of this mantle.' Four chiefs approached, and seizing the corners simultaneously, lifted the stone. When it had reached the proper height, Muhammad with his own hand guided it to its place."
The hero of this episode was now approaching his fortieth year.
"Always pensive," again we quote the eloquent words of Sir William Muir, "he had of late become even more thoughtful and retiring. Contemplation and reflection now engaged his whole mind. The debasement of his people, his own uncertainty as to the true religion, the dim and imperfect shadows of Judaism and Christianity exciting doubts without satisfying them, pressed heavily upon his soul, and he frequently retired to seek relief in meditation amongst the solitary valleys and rocks near Mecca. His favourite spot was a cave in the declivities at the foot of Mount Hira, a lofty conical hill, two or three miles north of Mecca. Thither he would retire for some days at a time, and his faithful wife sometimes accompanied him. The continued solitude, instead of stilling his anxiety, magnified into sterner and more impressive shapes the solemn realities which perplexed and agitated his soul.... All around was bleak and rugged... There was harmony between these desert scenes of external nature and the troubled, chaotic elements of the spiritual world within. By degrees his impulsive and susceptible mind was wrought up to the highest pitch of excitement; and he would give vent to his agitation in wild and rhapsodical language, the counterpart of his inward struggles after truth."
It may readily be supposed that the careless and indifferent denizens of the desert received, as the
day-dreams of a half-witted enthusiast the warnings and expostulations which Muhammad now began to utter; yet a few regarded his sayings with attention if not with reverence; but even these latter argued that they had better be content with the light their Maker had given them. "If," said they, "a Prophet had been sent unto us, we should, no doubt, have followed his directions, and been equally devout and spiritual in our worship as the Jews and Christians." Though surrounded by a small band of adherents who recognized him as their spiritual head, Muhammad saw clearly that he would be powerless unless charged with a "Divine commission" to call forth his people from darkness into light. Distracted in mind and soul, he betook himself to the desert, where under the canopy of the skies, he struggled with a destiny fraught, in his case, with such difficulties and anxieties. But while he meditated on these things a heavenly visitant appeared before his astonished eyes, charged with the "memorable behest " (Quran, Sura 96)
Recite in the name of the Lord who created:-
Created Man from nought but congealed blood:-
Recite For thy Lord is beneficent.
It is He who hath taught (to record Revelation) with the Pen;-
Hath taught Man that which he knoweth not.
Nay, verily Man is rebellious;
Because he seeth himself to abound in Wealth.
Verily unto thy Lord is the return of all.
Hast thou seen him that holdeth back
The servant (of God) when he prayeth?
What thinkest thou? had he listened to right Direction,
And commanded unto Piety?
Dost thou not see that he hath rejected the Truth, and turned his back;
What! Doth he not know that God seeth?
Nay, verily, if he forbear not, We shall drag him by the Forelock-The lying, sinful Forelock!
Then let him call his company of friends, and We shall call the guards of Hell;
Nay! submit not unto him; but worship, and draw nigh unto the Lord.
Muhammad had now (A.D. 609-10) become the servant of God, the Prophet of the Most High, but his "Mission" was unheeded; the busy world had no mind to listen to the rhapsodies of a religious enthusiast. Weary in mind, and his soul filled with despair, the idea seized his frenzied brain, that to end an existence so painful and full of perplexities, he would rush head-long over one of the wild cliffs where he was wont to repair to cool his thoughts and collect his ideas. But his better judgment prevailed, and the fatal resolution was cast aside. An invisible influence held him back! Nor did he pass unrewarded; again for the second time an angel from heaven came down from the skies with comfort and support for the struggling and tortured son of Adam, and, falling into a trance, he received the command to "Arise and preach."
Slowly and surely did the twice consecrated "Mission" of Muhammad gain ground. In the forty-fourth year of his age we find him surrounded by a knot of adherents, all of whom looked up to him as their divinely-appointed guide.
The first convert to his doctrines is supposed to have been the faithful wife of his bosom, though certain sectaries would have it believed otherwise. "So Khadija believed," thus is it recorded in the annals of Islam, "and attested the truth of that which came from God Thus was the Lord minded to lighten the burden of his Prophet, for he heard nothing that grieved him touching his rejection by his people, but he had recourse unto her, and she comforted, reassured, and supported him." Her example was followed by Zaid, the husband of Baraka, the nurse of Muhammad; while his father's brother's son, the lad Ali, who lived under the same roof with the Prophet, had grown up from a child in the faith of his distinguished guardian and protector. To this small group - the first germs of the Muslim faith-must be added the name of Abu Bakr, the bosom friend of the new apostle - a convert who, as possessing both wealth and influence, secured for the recently proclaimed creed an amount of consideration
and respect which it could scarcely have otherwise obtained. Within a period of between three or four years after Muhammad had assumed the role of a Prophet, the converts to his preaching amounted to upwards of forty souls, including amongst the number the well-known Othman, who, together with the afore
mentioned Ali, succeeded in the fulness of time to the position held by the founder of the faith; nor must mention be omitted of the famous Bilal, the son of an Abyssinian slave-girl, shortly and for future ages to be renowned throughout the Muhammadan world as the first "Muazzin," or "Crier to Prayer."
It was not to be expected that the citizens of Mecca would regard with much favour the man who was wont "to speak unto the people about the heavens." The religion of their ancestors might be wrong, but what evidence had they that the "Divine Commission" of the Prophet who had sprung up in their midst was aught but a device to secure to himself the obedience and support of his credulous brethren? When, however, Muhammad began to abuse their idols, and to proclaim that all who trusted in such blocks of wood and stone would be consigned to the bottomless pit, "they became displeased, and began to treat him with contumely." Yet at this time, as indeed in all ages, persecution failed in its object, while, on the other hand, it afforded a plausible excuse for opposing force to force against those who "obstructed the ways of the Lord"; and so it happened that a contention arose, and "the first blood was shed in Islam."
In the fourth year of his Mission (A.D. 614), Muhammad removed to the house of a convert named Arqam, with the view of more peaceably expounding his new creed to those who were prepared to give him ear. Aggravated by the success of the sect which had sprung up, the Quraish commenced to ill-treat such of the humbler converts as came within the pale of their vengeance, and the wretched beings whom they seized were exposed "in the glare of the mid-day sun, upon the scorching gravel of the Meccan valley,' till anguish induced them to revile their Prophet and acknowledge the idols of their kinsfolk and fellow-countrymen. Unable to protect these sufferers for the faith, Muhammad enjoined them to seek in a foreign land that security which was denied them in their own kingdom. "Yonder," said he, pointing to the West, "lieth a region wherein no one is wronged - a land of righteousness. Depart thither, and there remain till it pleaseth the Lord to open your way before you." So in the fifth year of the Prophet's ministry (Nov. A.D. 615), a party of fifteen souls embarked in haste for Abyssinia.
"On this occasion, says Sir W. Muir, "the emigrants were few, but the part they acted was of deep importance in the history of Islam. It convinced the Meccans of the sincerity and resolution of the converts, and proved their readiness to undergo any loss and any hardship rather than abjure the faith of Muhammad a bright example of self-denial was exhibited to the believers generally, who were led to regard peril and exile in the cause of God as a glorious privilege and distinction. It suggested that the hostile attitude of their fellow citizens, together with the purity of their own faith, might secure for them within the limits of Arabia itself a sympathy and hospitality as cordial as that afforded by the Abyssinians and thus it gave birth to the idea of a greater Hijra - the emigration to Madina.'
At this time the "Apostle of the Lord" - such was the title which he had assumed-broken in spirit, when he reflected on the small progress made in converting his fellow-countrymen, conceived the idea of effecting a compromise with his opponents; so one day, entering a group of Meccans who were assembled in the Kaba, he recited to them a revelation which contained an acknowledgment of the idols of Arabia. The Quraish, surprised and delighted at this recognition of their deities, prostrated themselves with one accord on the ground. With the rapidity of the wind, the rumour spread throughout the city that they had been converted, and in a brief time the welcome news was wafted to the far-off shores of Abyssinia. Encouraged by the glad tidings, the little band of refugees who had settled therein at once determined to revisit the land of their birth, where, under the altered condition of affairs, they felt sure of a warm and hospitable reception. So, three months after they had shaken off the dust of their feet against Mecca, they once again reappeared at the gates of the sacred city. But much had happened during the eventful weeks in which they had journeyed along with joyous hearts and eager expectations, Muhammad had made a compromise with his opponents, but he quickly perceived that his
policy of concession had not stood him in good stead: the worship of images continued, while the God of Islam remained unhonoured and unheeded. The dilemma was perplexing, but his resolve was firm and unhesitating; he denounced his own actions, and proclaimed that "the devil had deceived him." Ever at hand to comfort and console the dejected Apostle of the Lord, an angel now came down from heaven, but his mission was, on this occasion, prefaced by the stern rebuke, "What is this that thou hast done? thou hast repeated before the people words that I never gave unto thee." So the terrified penitent was led to cancel the verse which had brought down upon him the wrath of his Maker, and to substitute another, proclaiming the idols of Arabia as "naught but names." But the circumstance that Muhammad had temporized with idolatry seriously undermined his position at Mecca - his explanation was laughed to scorn, and persecution waxed hotter and more severe than ever. So the new comers from Abyssinia, on their arrival, finding matters even worse than when they quitted the city some months before, were compelled to retrace their weary steps, and for the second time they turned their backs upon their brethren. Their number, too, was further augmented and on their return amounted to the not inconsiderable total of 101 souls, of whom 83 were men.
Muhammad himself remained behind, but he was exposed to insults of every description at the hands of the incensed populace, who were wont to pelt him in the streets; and now and again the Prophet, who in after years numbered his followers by millions of pious Muslims, was compelled to crouch under the ledge of projecting stones, there to offer up to Heaven his prayers to the God in whom he trusted! Strange and mysterious indeed are the workings of Providence!
In the sixth year of his Mission Muhammad was fortunate enough to secure the adhesion to his cause of two citizens of position, by name Hamza and Omar. Encouraged by this circumstance, the Prophet of Arabia,
abandoning the quiet seclusion of the "House of Islam" - for thus was called his humble abode at Mecca - betook himself with his followers to the Kaba, where all the assembled multitudes the worship of the God was thenceforth to be performed. Islam was longer now a down-trodden, despised faith, held by isolated and, for the most part, obscure converts; powerful faction, which challenged open hostility with those who worshipped the gods of Arabia, the idols of wood and stone. In these circumstances the Quraish bethought themselves of an expedient to reduce to submission their rivals, and the Hashimite tribe by whom the latter were supported. They entered into a solemn bond, which they impressed with their seals and hung up in the temple, to the effect that "they would not marry their women, nor give their own in marriage to them; that they would sell nothing to them, nor buy aught from them; that dealings with them of every kind should cease." Unable to resist the attacks thus made upon them, the Prophet and his followers retired (A.D. 616-617) into a secluded quarter of the city, where they soon found themselves deprived even of the barest necessaries of life - the ban of the Quraish had taken fatal effect. For three years the well-nigh famished converts, in company with their wives and little ones, maintained the struggle; but the piteous cries and emaciated features of the hapless children indicated in unmistakable language how great were the hardships which the believers in the new faith had to undergo.
Fortunately a time of delivery was at hand. While the sympathies of the Quraish were aroused at the exemplary conduct of Muhammad under these trying circumstances, it was discovered that the parchment in the Kaba, on which the ban was engraved, had been eaten by insects. Encouraged by this intelligence, the venerable Abu Talib, bent down as he was with the weight of more than fourscore years, proceeded with a troop of followers, and addressed the assembled tribe
in these stirring words - "Intelligence hath reached me that your parchment hath been eaten up of insects. If my words be found true, then desist from your evil designs; if false, I will deliver up Muhammad that ye may do with him as ye list." The proposal found acceptance-the document was fetched from the Kaba, and, true enough, the greater portion thereof had been devoured by white ants, and was no longer legible. Abu Talib thereupon bitterly upbraided them for their inhumanity, and portrayed in forcible terms their breach of social kindness. So the refugees were allowed to go forth to their respective homes. Scarce had he time to rejoice over his success, ere the cup of joy was once again dashed from the lips of the exultant Prophet. Khadija, for five-and-twenty years the wife of his bosom, was at this period (Dec. A.D. 619) taken from him, and barely, too, had he begun to realize how great was his loss, when Abu Talib, who for forty years had nurtured and protected him, was gathered to his fathers. But it was an occasion for action rather than grief-something must be done - seeing that the new faith had not materially gained ground at Mecca during the last three or four years. So Muhammad determined to visit the neighbouring city of Tayif, in the hope that the people might be induced to give ear to his message. With this resolve, unaccompanied save by his faithful attendant Zaid, he set out on his adventurous mission, struggling through rocky defiles for forty weary miles, till he reached the fertile valleys which surrounded the city whither he was bending his steps. But he preached to heedless listeners; the chiefs received him with cold disdain, while the populace, contrasting the poverty of the man with the richness of his mission, regarded him with contempt, and, pelting him with stones, drove him forth from the town. Wearied and lacerated, the Prophet of Arabia took refuge in an orchard; but some wealthy Meccans, sitting in their pleasure gardens near Tayif, had watched the flight of Muhammad, and, moved by compassion at his sorry condition, they sent a tray
of grapes to refresh his parched lips. Somewhat relieved, he betook himself to prayer, and, falling down on his knees, poured forth a touching appeal to the Lord whom he worshipped. "O Lord! I make my complaint unto Thee of the feebleness of my strength and the poverty of my expedients, and of my insignificance before mankind. O Thou Most Merciful! Thou art the Lord of the weak, and Thou art my Lord. Into whose hands wilt Thou abandon me? Into the hands of the strangers that beset me round, or of the enemy to whom Thou hast given the mastery over me? If Thy wrath be not upon me I have no concern, but rather Thy favour is the more wide unto me. I seek refuge in the light of Thy gracious countenance, by which the darkness is dispersed, and peace ariseth both for this world and the next, that Thy wrath light not upon me, nor Thine indignation. It is Thine to show anger until Thou art pleased, and there is not any power or resource but in Thee."
Repulsed from Tayif, and hopeless of succeeding in Mecca, the Apostle sought in the domestic circle a solace for the disappointments and vexations which attended his public career. So he took to himself a wife (A.D. 620), one Sauda, a widow, while he betrothed himself to the daughter of Abu Bakr, by name Ayisha, then a child of about six or seven years of age.
Fortune seemed at this period of his career altogether to have deserted him ; but a change was at hand. The season of pilgrimage had arrived. Muhammad, as usual, wandered forth to proclaim the faith of Islam to such as would listen to his words : it chanced that he perceived a knot of six or seven persons, and, recognizing them as strangers from Madina, he addressed them in kindly tones: ultimately, finding that they gave ear with readiness to his words, he expounded to them his doctrine, and, pointing out the difficulties of his position at Mecca, inquired whether they would receive and protect him in thiercity. While ready to embrace the Muslim faith, they were unable to pledge themselves
to comply with the wishes of the Prophet in regard to his migration to Madina - a matter which concerned others as well as themselves-but they promise - to return at the season of pilgrimage in the ensuing year to the same spot whereon they stood. Months of anxious expectation passed by, till at length the appointed time came round. Conscious how much depended on the issue, Muhammad repaired with anxious steps and beating heart to the spot which he had named, a sheltered glen in Mina. But his apprehensions were soon dispelled, for, true to their word, he found there a band of twelve faithful followers from amongst the people of Madina, ready to acknowledge him as their spiritual pastor and master: so they plighted their faith "We will not worship any but the one God; we will not steal, neither will we commit adultery or kill our children; we will not slander in anywise ; and we will not disobey the Prophet in anything that is right." Muhammed replied, "If ye fulfil the pledge, Paradise shall be your reward. He that shall fail in any part thereof, to God belongeth his concern, either to punish or for-give." This memorable proceeding, fraught with such vital consequences to the future of Islam', is known as the First Pledge of Aqaba, being named after the spot whither the band had retired to avoid observation. It happened in April, AD. 621.
On returning to Madina, the disciples of the new faith found favour in the eyes of the people, converts flocked in with astonishing rapidity, and ere long it became necessary that a teacher well versed in the doctrines of God's Apostle should repair to the town, now rapidly becoming a centre of the Muslim world. Thus it happened that a youth, by name Musab, was deputed for the purpose.
"The hopes of Muhammad," says Sir W. Muir, "were now fixed upon Madina. Visions of his journey northwards flitted before his imagination. The musings of the day reappeared in midnight slumber. He dreamed that he was swiftly carried by Gabriel on a winged steed past Madina to the temple at
Jerusalem, where he was welcomed by the former Prophets, all assembled for his reception in solemn conclave. His excited spirit conjured up a still more transcendent scene. From Jerusalem he seemed to mount upwards and ascend from one heaven to another; he found himself at last in the awful presence of his Maker, who dismissed him with the behest that his people were to pray five times in the day. As he awoke in the morning in the house of Abu Talib, where he had passed the night, the vision was vividly before his eyes and he exclaimed to Umm Hani, the daughter of Abu Talib, that during the night he had prayed in the Temple of Jerusalem. While he was going forth to tell the vision to others she seized him by the mantle, and conjured him not thus to expose himself to the mockery and revilings of the unbelievers. But he persisted. As the story spread abroad the idolaters scoffed, the believers were staggered, and some are said even to have gone back."
Another year elapsed, and for the second time (A.D. 622) the Madina converts repaired to Mecca; on this occasion, however, they assembled to the goodly number of seventy-five. To elude the vigilance of the watchful and bigoted citizens, it was determined that the meeting with the Prophet should take place at night at a secluded glen beneath the famous eminence Aqaba. It was a romantic and striking scene. Thither the votaries repaired by twos and threes to hear the address of their new leader. This finished, the "Seventy" proclaimed with one voice their readiness to receive the Prophet in their city, even at the risk of life and property. So they one and all swore the oath of fealty thus came about the second pledge of Aqaba. The Madina people now commenced their homeward journey; but rumours of what had happened reached the tents of the Quraish, who, amazed and exasperated, followed in the footsteps of the departed caravans; but in vain-they secured but one solitary captive. Still further irritated and incensed, they began to persecute both Muhammad and his followers; whereupon the Prophet gave the command, "Depart unto Madina, for the Lord hath verily given you brethren in that city,
and a home in which ye may find refuge." This latter town is distant from Mecca upwards of 250 miles, the journey being usually accomplished in from ten to eleven days: but the Muslim wanderers were compelled to travel secretly in parties of two or three, and about two months elapsed before all the followers of the Prophet had reached their new abode. At last there remained but three believers in Mecca-Muhammad and Abu Bakr, together with their families, and lastly, Ali, now a stripling of about twenty summers. When all the preparations were complete, hearing that the Quraish were about to send a deputation to his house, and fearing that their intentions were evil, the Lawgiver of Arabia stole away secretly and unobserved from his abode: before starting, however, he cast his red Hadhramant mantle round the youthful Ali, and bid the lad occupy the bed he had himself just vacated. He then went to the house of Abu Bakr, and tarrying there till the shades of evening, they both escaped, unobserved, through a back window, and journeying south instead of north to avoid detection, took refuge in a cave in the mountain of Thaur. The disappearance of Muhammad occasioned no small stir in the city, and the chief of the Quraish went to the Prophet's house to gain tidings of the flight. Finding Ali the sole occupant of the abode, he questioned the youth as to what had occurred. "I have no knowledge of him," was the rejoinder; "am I his keeper? Ye bade him to quit the city, and he bath quitted it." Inquiry at the residence of Abu Bakr produced no more satisfactory results: so the tribe sent emissaries in all directions to discover if possible traces fugitives-but without success: the simple expedient of journeying in a direction diametrically opposite destination which it might be supposed they have taken had saved the faith of Islam! Some, the scouts came to the cave where the Prophet his companions were concealed, but finding a web spun across the entrance, they imagined the place deserted, and omitted to search for the fugiatives.
One tiny insect, to use the expressive language of the historian of Rome, "had changed the history of the world."
After remaining three nights in the cave, preparations were made to start on their journey, and on the following evening the two camels which had borne them to their retreat, being ready, Muhammad and a guide mounted the swifter of the two, named Al Qaswa, while Abu Bakr, accompanied by his servant Amir ibn Fahaira, who had now joined his master, rode the second beast. The morn of flight, so memorable in the annals of Arabia, was June 20, A.D. 622; a date from which henceforth the chronology of the Muhammadan world was to be computed. The first "Hijra" year of the Eastern world had now commenced. Fatigued and weary, the fugitives plodded along, resting awhile during the hottest part of the day. After several hours had elapsed, they came to the encampment of some Bedouins of the desert, and seeing an Arab lady sitting in the front of her tent offering food and drink to such travellers as might pass her hospitable doors, the party refreshed themselves with a draught of milk. Hurrying on, they then turned into the common road which connects the cities of Mecca and Madina. They had not proceeded far when they perceived a scout who had been sent to track their footsteps ; but the man was single-handed, while they themselves numbered four individuals. So they feared not; rather, indeed, they extracted from the venturesome wanderer a promise that if they allowed him "to depart in peace, he would not reveal that he had met them." With anxious hearts and worn-out frames, onward they toiled, till at length on the memorable Monday, the 28th of June, A.D., 622, they arrived safe and secure from the molestations of their enemies, amidst the congratulations of their friends, at the outskirts of Madina, a city henceforth destined to share with Mecca the love and reverence of all faithful Muslims. The stripling Ali, remained three days at the capital, and meeting with no interference or
annoyance, leisurely set out, when a fitting opportunity arose, towards the new home of his adoption. As regards the families of Muhammad and Abu Bakr, some of the members betook themselves at once to Madina, while others continued to abide at Mecca, where they do not appear to have met with either insult or molestation.
When the news spread through the town persons rushed forth in every direction, vying" with one another in showing honour to their visitor." Thus writes the historian of the Prophet of Islam
"It was a triumphal procession. Around the camels of Muhammad and his immediate followers rode the chief men of the city, clad in their best raiment and in glittering armour. The cavalcade pursued its way through the gardens and palm groves of the southern suburbs and as it now threaded the streets of the city, the heart of Muhammad was gladdened by the incessant call from one and another of the citizens who flocked around: 'Alight here, O Prophet We have abundance with us, and we have the means of defence, and weapons, and room : abide with us.' So urgent was the appeal, that sometimes they seized hold of Al Qaswa's halter. Muhammad answered them all courteously and kindly. "The decision," he said, " rests with the camel : make way therefore for her; let her go free. It was a stroke of policy. His residence would be hallowed in the eyes of the people as selected supernaturally, while any heart - burnings of the jealous tribes, which otherwise might arise from the quarter of one being preferred before the quarter of another, would thus receive a decisive check."
It chanced that the animal halted at a spot owned by two orphan boys. The Prophet, summoning the lads to his presence, proposed to purchase the piece of ground; but they refused, saying," Nay, but we will make a free gift of it to thee." But Muhammad refused the pious offer, and insisted upon paying over to the youths a fitting sum, in accordance with the worth of the land. Having received possession of the property, he proceeded to erect thereon a mosque, where he established a daily service of prayer, while at the same spot, once
in every week, he proclaimed to the assembled multitude the new faith embodied in the formula "There is but one God." When all was finished, the Prophet bethought himself of his worldly concerns, and celebrated his nuptials with Ayisha, to whom, as before stated, he had now been affianced upwards of three years. The circumstance of this marriage is important, as henceforward polygamy became an institution in the Muslim world, hallowed as the custom thus was by the example of their Prophet, who, it should be kept in mind. If, up to this period had limited himself to a single wife. The first anxiety of Muhammad, after matters had settled down at Madina, was to league himself with the Jews, whose religion had afforded him the groundwork of his own creed. So Jerusalem became the "Qibla" or holy spot towards which the pious worshipper turns his face when he prostrates himself in prayer. Not content with this too - a formal agreement, known as the Treaty of Madina, was concluded with the descendants of Abraham, confirming them in the practice of their religion, and in the secure possession of their property. But Judaism and Islam were antagonistic in principle; the Prophet of Madina could never be the Messiah of Jerusalem, seeing that the offspring of the Quraish was not the descendant of David. So the Jews began to murmur against Muhammad. "This Prophet of yours," said they, in tones of contempt, "knew not where to find his 'Qibla' till we pointed it out to him." Angered and distressed, he poured forth his soul to his Guardian Angel : - "O Gabriel, would that the Lord might change the direction of my face at prayer away from the 'Qibla' of the Jews!" "I am but a servant," was the response of the messenger from Heaven; "address thy prayer to God." Thereupon Muhammad petitioned the Lord his Creator. "Turn now thy face toward the Holy Temple of Mecca," was the mandate to the trustful believer; thus the Kaba became the 'Qibla' of Islam. This occurred in the month Rajab, A.H. 2 (Nov. A.D. 623).
It may well be imagined that Muhammad bore no love towards the people of Mecca, who had not only refused to receive his new religion, but had even rendered his abode in their town a matter of more than difficulty. As soon, therefore, as he had somewhat consolidated his position at Madina, he commenced reprisals against the Quraish by harassing their caravans as they journeyed to and from Syria. The Prophet did not himself at first accompany these plundering excursions, which were indeed designed probably more to try the temper of the people of the city of his adoption towards himself and his followers than to inflict any injury upon his enemies. But in the summer and autumn of A.D. 623, Muhammad led in person three somewhat larger expeditions ; the results were in each case insignificant, save as indicative of the fact that Muhammad was prepared to act on the offensive as well as the defensive, thus foreshadowing the great events which were to be brought to pass in subsequent years. It is also worthy of note that, while scouring the country on the occasion of the earliest of these forays, the Prophet entered into the first treaty he had conceded with any foreign tribe, having signed an engagement with the Bani Damra "that neither party would levy war against the other, nor help their enemies." But the year, in its later months, was destined to play an important part in the annals of Islam. The Prophet on his return from his unsuccessful expeditions determined to send forth Abdullah ibn Jahsh with seven other refugees. His destination and the objects of his journey were unknown to any one save the Lawgiver of Arabia himself, who placed in the hands of the leader of the party a sealed packet of instructions, with the injunction that it should not be opened till the band had journeyed two days on the road, and had entered the valley of Mallal. The mandate was scrupulously obeyed, and on arriving at the appointed spot Abdullah was astonished to find that he must "go forward to Nakhla in the name of
the Lord, and with his blessing! Yet force not any of thy followers against his inclination. Proceed with those that accompany thee willingly. And, when thou art arrived at the Valley of Nakhla, there lie in wait for the caravans of the Quraish." The little band unanimously determined to go forward and fulfil the commands of the Prophet; but two of the party, falling behind in search of a camel which had strayed, did not regain their companions. So the remnant, six in number, sallied forth towards the appointed locality: nor had they to wait long ere a caravan laden with wine, raisins, and leather, came up. Its guard, composed of four Quraishites, seeing the strangers became alarmed. So to disarm their apprehensions one of Abdullah's party shaved his head, there by betokening that he was a pilgrim on his return from Mecca. The ruse succeeded, and the fears of the men of the caravan were lulled. At this juncture a difficulty occurred to the minds of the pious Muslims. "If," said they, "we should defer the attack this night, they will surely move off, and entering the holy territory escape us; but if we should fight against them now it is unlawful, for we shall be transgressing the sacred month." In the end, an arrow from the bow of one of their number solved the problem for it killed on the spot the hapless wanderer from the tents of the Quraish; the band then rushed upon the caravan and secured two prisoners, while the third escaped on his horse. Muhammad professed to be displeased with what had happened, saying, "I never commanded thee to fight in the sacred month." But reflecting that it was not advisable to discourage his followers, he shortly afterwards proclaimed a revelation from heaven justifying as a lesser evil than idolatry and opposition to Islam, hostilities undertaken during that holy period for the propagation of the faith. "This," says a fervent son of Arabia, "was the first booty that the Musulmans obtained, the first captives they seized, the first life they took."
Scarce had A.D. 624 commenced its course than the
Prophet, calling together his followers, addressed them in words well calculated to inflame the minds of a people to whom the love of adventure is invariably an all-powerful incentive to action and enterprise : "Here," said he, is a caravan of the Quraish, in which they have embarked much wealth. Come! perchance the Lord will enrich you with the same." The people of Madina responded with alacrity to the call, and sallied forth to the number of 305; but the leader of the caravan, by name Abu Sufiyan, on his way back from Syria, hearing rumours of what was taking place, and finding from the date-stones in the track of the spies which Muhammad had sent forth, the direction of the Prophet's movements diverted his course and escaped the machinations of his foes. Meanwhile, however, unaware of the circumstance, a messenger from the caravan had entered breathless and in haste the streets of Mecca, exclaiming, "Quraish! Quraish! your caravan is pursued by Muhammad! Help! O help!" An army soon gathered together to punish the audacity of the exile from the Holy City. They had not proceeded far, when the news reached their camp of the safety of their goods and people; whereupon some counselled a return, the object for which they set out having been secured. Others, more warlike in their aspirations, pleaded that such a course would expose them to the taunt of cowardice. "Let us go forward to Badr, and there by the fountain spend three days in eating and making merry. All Arabia will hear of it, and will ever stand in awe of us." The advice was acceptable, and the 950 warriors of Arabia advanced towards the city where it had been decided they should encamp.
Muhammad was fully alive to the importance of the struggle upon which he had entered immediately before the battle he implored the assistance of the God whose cause he was supporting. "O Lord! I beseech thee forget not Thy promise of assistance and of victory. O Lord! if this little band be vanquished Idolatry will prevail, and the pure worship of Thee
cease from off the earth." The contest commenced, after the fashion of Arabian warfare, with single combats, in which it chanced that the champions of the Quraish were discomfited and slain. Encouraged by this circumstance, the followers of the Prophet fought with a vigour which carried everything before them. Still, in spite of their prodigies valour, the fate of the day tottered in the balance. At length, however, Muhammad, who had busied himself encouraging his followers, by holding the prospect of Paradise to those who fell, seeing his opportunity stooped down, and taking a handful of dust cast it towards his enemies, exclaiming, "Confusion seize their faces!" It was the turning-point in the struggle. The Quraish began to waver, and soon an indiscriminate flight commenced throughout their ranks. They fled indeed for their lives, for they had no mercy to expect at the hands of their zealous opponents, in whose estimation pity was weakness and mercy a token of effeminacy-forty-nine of the people of Mecca were slain, and as many more taken prisoners, while the followers of the Prophet lost but fourteen. Such was the celebrated battle of Badr, which occurred on the 12th January, A.D. 624.
The sword of war had now been drawn from the scabbard of peace, and henceforth success in arms became the criterion of Muhammad's prophetic claim. The victory at Badr was but the foretaste of blood, and from this time the hand of extermination was raised against all those who refused to accept the teachings of Islam, or bow the knee to the Apostle of Madina.
The first to feel the weight of Muhammad's displeasure were the Jews ; relentless and unforgiving, the Prophet determined upon the annihilation of the race. The pretext for attacking them was paltry and ludicrous. An Arab girl happened to sit herself down in the market-place, when a Jew, stealthily approaching from behind, pinned the lower hem of her skirt to the upper portion of her dress. On arising the exposure which followed drew down upon her the ridicule of the
bystanders, one of whom, however, more irritated than amused, slew the offender, whose kinsfolk in turn fell upon the hasty-actioned Muslim. The Prophet at once sent his followers to avenge the death of their companion in faith, and the hapless Jews, to the number of about 700, were blockaded till they surrendered at discretion. Marked out for execution, the poor wretches chanced to find an honest outspoken protector amongst the bands of the Muhammadans, and on his intercession Muhammad consented to spare their lives, and commanded that the captives should be sent into exile. "Let them go. God curse them, and God curse him also!" was the angry denunciation of the enraged Prophet against the children of Abraham and their deliverer. This occurred in February, A.D. 624. Foiled of his prey Muhammad retaliated by giving his followers permission to kill any Jews whom they might chance to meet, a privilege of which the pious fanatics were nothing loth to await themselves. Alarmed and cowed, the Israelites, with trembling steps, repaired to their exasperated foe, and ultimately concluded a new treaty with the view of securing themselves from molestation, if not death. Towards the close of the year Muhammad, though in the midst of "wars and rumours of wars," did not lose sight of the attractions of home, and took to himself a fourth wife in the person of Hafsa, the daughter of Omar, a matron who had been left a widow some six or seven months before her espousal to the Apostle of Islam.
The new year opened ominously as regards the Prophet and the band of enthusiasts, by whom he was surrounded for the Quraish then carried into execution the long deferred threat of revenge, which they had harboured since their defeat at Badr. Emerging forth from the city of Mecca to the number of 3,000, of whom 700 were mailed warriors and 200 cavalry, they encamped in the plain of Ohod, situated about three miles from Madina. To oppose this host Muhammad mustered but 700 followers; but they were all men of
mettle, animated with religious zeal, and determined to "do or die." The battle commenced with a series of mishaps on the part of the Quraish, whose champions, were one by one, laid low in the dust, and the cry "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), raised with ever increasing enthusiasm and fervour, betokened successive victories to the sturdy warriors of Islam - the fight itself, too, was for a time much in favour of the heroic little band from Madina, who, animated by the presence of their Prophet hurled destruction upon the ranks of the enemy. Indeed, in course of time the Meccans began to waver, and confusion overtook their ranks. But the cup of victory was destined to be dashed from the lips of the Muslim army. Encouraged by the success of their arms the Prophet's followers could not resist the temptation of plundering the camp of their foes; whereupon one of the Quraish leaders seeing his opportunity wheeled round and attacked the Musulmans in the rear, a terrible struggle ensued - again and again the ranks of the Faithful were broken, and as repeatedly the calls of their chiefs reinspired their stout-hearted followers to fresh deeds of prowess - warrior after warrior fell beneath the swords of the maddened sons of the desert; when suddenly a cry arose that the Prophet himself was slain; nor was the alarm altogether groundless, for not only had a stone struck the leader of the Faithful in the face, knocking out one of his teeth, but another severe blow had driven the rings of his helmet onto his cheek, and gashed his forehead; blood flowed copiously from Muhammad's wounds, and he was carried off the field of battle, helpless and hopeless as a leader of men. The Quraish soon became masters of the field ; but their feelings of hatred were against the Prophet rather than the city, and contenting themselves with the defeat of their foe, they betook themselves back to Mecca-thus passed the disastrous 26th January, A.D. 625. From amongst the ranks of the Muslims no less than seventy-four corpses lay mangled in the dust, many of them barbarously disfigured, for
the feelings of revenge, which for many a month had been pent up within the bosoms of the Quraishites, found vent in the mutilation of the slain, and the example of Hind, the wife of Abu Sufiyan, who is said to have torn out the liver of her victim, Hamza, and chewed it, stringing, at the same time, his nails and pieces of his skin together to bedeck her arms and legs, was followed by many a frenzied virago of Mecca "as a return for Badr." "I was not giving counsel," was the exclamation of the leader of the Meccan army on hearing of the mutilation of the dead, "but neither am I displeased thereat."
The misfortune at Ohod was a severe blow to the hopes of Muhammad, - a cloud obscuring the sun of Islam's greatness-and it needed all his skill to reanimate his followers: so the never-ending joys of Paradise were promised to all who had fallen on the fatal plain. "Yea, they are alive and are nourished with their Lord. No terror affecteth them, neither are they grieved." Such was the rhetoric of the Prophet; heaven and hell were enlisted in his service to do battle for the drooping warriors of Madina.
The remainder of the year passed comparatively uneventfully, save that towards its close the Bani Nadir were forcibly expelled from the Jewish settlements in Madina. So Muhammad, having leisure to bethink himself of domestic matters, espoused Zainab, the widow of a kinsman slain at Badr. Not a month elapsed, too, ere (Jan. A.D. 626) he wedded a fifth wife in the person of Omm Salma, also a widow; while the same year was destined to add a sixth fair lady to the harem of the amorous Prophet. It happened thus: One day Muhammad chancing to visit the house of his adopted son, Zaid, the wife of the latter, by name Zainab, hastily arranging her dress, bade the Lawgiver of Arabia enter. But the lustful eye of the leader of the Faithful had caught a glimpse of her unvested charms, "Gracious God Almighty" was the rapturous exclamation, "how thou turnest the hearts of man
kind." Proud of her conquest, the woman informed her husband on his return, as to what had occurred. Nothing loth to profit by the circumstance, Zaid at once repaired to Muhammad, and declared his readiness to divorce the wife of his bosom to make way for such an illustrious successor. The alliance, however, was not in accordance with Arab morals, and for a long time the Prophet struggled with the better feelings of his nature, till at last he received a message from Heaven, and Zainab was added to the list of the wives who graced the home of the Apostle of Islam.
It was at this time that the seclusion of women was enjoined upon the Muslim world. Having himself had personal experience in regard to the danger arising from the freedom hitherto allowed to the daughters of Arabia, the Prophet not unnaturally argued that the disciple was not likely to be more discreet than his master. So a revelation came down from the Almighty bidding Muhammad place his wives (henceforth designated the "Mothers of the Faithful") "behind a curtain," while, when walking abroad, they were to "throw" around them a part of their mantle," that they might not "be subject to annoyance. The waning weeks of the year A.D. 626 were rapidly drawing to a close when Muhammad resolved to chastise the Bani Mustalhiq, who were raising troops to join in an attack on Madina; the tribe fell an easy prey to their jealous foes, and numerous captives were brought back by the exultant followers of the Prophet amongst the number was Juwaira, the daughter of the chief of the offending Arabians. This lady fell to the lot of a citizen who taking advantage of her rank and comeliness "fixed her ransom at nine ounces of gold." Unable to raise such a sum, she pleaded before Muhammad that the amount should be lessened. " Wilt thou hearken to something better than that thou askest of me?" was the insinuating reply of the Commander of the Faithful ?" With timid lips the coy maiden begged of the conqueror to name his conditions. "Even that
I should pay thy ransom and marry thee myself" were the words which fell on the amazed ears of the daughter of Arabia. So a seventh wife was added to the rapidly increasing list of the "Mothers of the Faithful." At this time a trouble fell upon Muhammad, in that his favourite wife Ayisha, being accidently left behind in a nocturnal march, returned in the morning in company with a stranger ; this led to an estrangement between the husband and wife, to the great joy of the enemies of the Prophet. Matters went on moodily for a time, till one day the offended spouse openly taxed his wife with misconduct, and bade her repent. She refused, alleging that she was innocent. Thereupon Muhammad fell into a prophetic trance, on awakening from which he exclaimed, the drops of sweat trickling down his cheeks as he spake, "Ayisha, rejoice! Verily the Lord hath revealed thine innocence. Praise be to God." So a command was issued : "They that slander married women, and thereafter do not bring forward four witnesses, scourge them with fourscore stripes." But the anxieties with which the Prophet was surrounded were not confined to domestic scenes. Scarce had the year A.D. 627 commenced its course than a Quraish force of no less than 10,000 men besieged Madina - so sudden indeed had been their approach that Muhammad barely found time to make ready for the attack. Unable to withstand in the field such a powerful army, the Muslims resolved in haste to entrench the town, and act on the defensive-a subterfuge characterized by their enemies as "a foreign artifice, to which no Arabs had ever yet descended"-an artifice, which, none the less, saved the city for a while, till the master mind of the Prophet who viewed war as a "game of deception" was enabled by cunning and treachery to sow discord amongst his foes, and paralyze their energies. The siege was indeed protracted, but nature lent her powerful assistance to the cause of the people of Madina, and a storm of wind and rain fell upon the besiegers, who, wet, dispirited, and comfortless,
were only too glad to betake themselves again to their homes. Thereupon the pious Muslims persuaded them-selves that the armies of heaven had been ranged on their side! Thus ended the "battle of the ditch."
Scarcely had the sturdy warriors laid aside their armour than a command came from on high, "Arise and go forth against the Quraiza," a Jewish tribe, who had detached themselves from the cause of the Faithful during the attack on Madina. After a siege of fourteen days the wretched Jews were forced to surrender; whereupon the men, to the number of 700 or 800, were led forth with their hands handcuffed behind their backs, and taken in companies of five or six at a time to the breach of a trench, where they were ruthlessly butchered in cold blood -one solitary prisoner was spared, but, on learning that all his comrades had been slain, he begged that he might also be killed. "Of what use is life to me any longer? Slay me also, that I may join those that have preceded me," was the fearless request of the fearless child of Israel. "Yea, he shall join them in the fire of Hell," was in turn the relentless reply of the relentless Prophet of the Muslims The women of the party were sold into slavery, save one, Kihana, whom the founder of Islam reserved for himself. But the lovely matron, faithful to the memory of her husband and brethren-who one and all had been massacred - refused to yield her charms to the savage victor who had ordered such a "human butchery." The licentious conqueror was himself conquered; and the all-powerful Lawgiver of Arabia had to court as a slave a Jewish widow, too proud to abjure the faith of her ancestors, and too noble to become the wife of the murderer of her husband, the destroyer of her kinsfolk!
After a year (A.D. 627) had been passed in several minor expeditions against various marauding and refractory tribes, Muhammad, who had not for six years visited his native city, bethought himself that the time had arrived when he should give a practical token of his zeal and piety by undertaking a pilgrimage to
Mecca. Accordingly, in February, A.D. 628, accompanied by about 1,500 men, he started from Madina. But the Quraish were obdurate, and refused to allow the Prophet to enter the holy city. At length, however, after repeated parleys and discussions, a treaty was concluded between the tribe in question and the Muslims, arranging for a truce of ten years, and for the immediate withdrawal of Muhammad and his followers, with permission to return on the same errand the following year, provided that every one who should avail himself of the privilege of performing the pilgrimage, should appear without any weapon save what is allowed to a traveller, viz., a sheathed sword. The people of Islam, sad and dejected, betook themselves to their homes, and it needed all the energies of their Prophet to persuade them that what had happened was for the best. An addition was thereupon made to the sacred mandates, and a revelation from Heaven proclaimed that God had given unto them "an evident victory." What is this victory? was the rejoinder of a simple-minded bystander. The artless followers of the Prophet did not realize that "on all other occasions there was fighting, but here war was laid aside, tranquillity and peace restored ; the one party hence-forward met and conversed freely with the other, and there was no man of sense or judgment amongst the idolaters who was not led thereby to join Islam."
With a singularity of purpose which can only be explained by the firmness of his belief in the faith which he had founded, Muhammad about this time conceived the strange notion that he would summon the various states and empires by which he was surrounded, to embrace the doctrines of the faith he had founded. Accordingly, in the autumn of A.I). 628, he dispatched a missive, sealed with a seal bearing the inscription, "Muhammad the apostle of God," to the Roman Emperor Heraclius, then in the zenith of power, having subdued and driven from his throne the mighty monarch of Persia. The strange, uncouth
despatch was viewed as the "effusion of some harmless fanatic," and cast aside with scorn and disdain. A second, addressed to the Ghassanide Prince of Arabia, met with no better fate; while a third, which reached the hand of the King of Persia, was torn in pieces by the incensed Sovereign. " Even thus, O Lord, rend Thou his kingdom from him," was the prayer of the offended Prophet on hearing the reception of this last missive. An embassy to Egypt met with more success, for the Roman Governor, while refusing to recognize the Prophet, sent for his acceptance "two damsels, highly estimated among the Copts, a present of raiment, and a mule for thee to ride upon." Of the two damsels Muhammad retained one for his own harem and she became noteworthy as the mother of the only son born to the Prophet. The mule, which was white, was greatly prized by the Lawgiver of Arabia, and henceforth took the place of the camel upon which he had been wont to ride. The summons addressed to the Court of Abyssinia was couched in language similar to that which had hitherto failed to allure other Christian potentates; but in this instance the result was more encouraging, as the swarthy monarch expressed his readiness to embrace the new faith, but lamented his inability to join in person the standard of the Prophet. The sixth and last messenger despatched by Muhammad was sent to the Christian Chief of Yamama. The reply which the envoy was charged to convey to his master merits recital: "How excellent is that revelation to which thou invitest me, and how beautiful! Know that I am the poet of my tribe, and their orator. The Arabs revere my dignity. Grant unto me a share in the rule, and I will follow thee." But the Prophet taught unity, alike as regards the Godhead and the Apostleship, and no one could be allowed to participate in the sovereignty of Islam. "Had this man stipulated for an unripe date only, as his share in the land, I could not have consented. Let him perish, and his vain glory with him!"
The year A.D. 628 was now fast passing away, and the expectation of plunder, which the Prophet had held out to his faithful followers, had not been fulfilled not, indeed, that Muhammad had been forgetful of his promise-he was far too prudent to overlook an opportunity of enriching his bands at the expense of their enemies, but the occasion had not presented itself. The Lawgiver of Arabia had indeed cast his eyes upon the rich and fertile lands of Khaibar, a town about 100 miles from Madina, inhabited by a colony of Jews; but no act of aggression on the part of the inhabitants had occurred, and the Muslim chief was unable to fix a quarrel upon his peace-loving foes. Despairing of finding a legitimate pretext, Muhammad resolved on a sudden and unprovoked invasion of the Jewish territory. Utterly unprepared for resistance, their forts fell one by one into the hands of the 1,600 warriors who raised on high the Muslim standard. One citadel alone had courage to resist, and under Kinana, who bad recently succeeded to the chiefship of the Jews of Khaibar, a long and desperate resistance was offered but in the end the city capitulated, and torture and death were the reward of the ill-fated descendants of Abraham, while the royal widow, a hapless matron of bewitching beauty and loveliness, was forced henceforth to grace the home circle of the Lord of Arabia. But retaliation was at hand : it chanced that there was a Jewish woman who had lost her husband, her father, her brother, and other relatives in the battle: her bosom was filled with revenge: accordingly she planned a scheme to rid mankind of the victor at whose command the blood of her kinsmen had flowed in streams down the streets and highways of the doomed city. Dressing a kid, and steeping it in a deadly poison, she placed the dish before the Prophet, who himself ate thereof, and gave to those around him. But scarcely had he tasted a mouthful than he exclaimed, "Hold! surely this shoulder hath been poisoned!" and he spat forth what was in his mouth. Though seized with
excruciating pains, Muhammad gradually recovered, but to his dying day he felt the effects of the poison which had been imbibed into his system. The daughter of Abraham was foiled, but her victim had not passed on his return to Madina, Muhammad took to himself through the ordeal scatheless.
On his return to Madina, Muhammad took to himself a ninth wife, in the person of Umm Habiba, the daughter of Abu Sufiyan. This fair matron was like all her predecessors in the apostle's harem a widow; her husband had long since died in Abyssinia, and it is conjectured that the Prophet was moved by motives of policy to add the lady to his long list of spouses, hoping that she might thereby be enabled to soften in some measure, the animosity of her father, a bitter, unrelenting, and withal powerful opponent to the faith of Islam.
The time had now arrived when Muhammad, according to the treaty concluded with Quraish, might again perform the pilgrimage to Mecca. Accordingly, in February, A.D. 629, he started on his journey of piety with upwards of 2,000 of his followers, many of whom had not for several years visited their native city. The ceremonies passed off without any remarkable incident, save that the Prophet, though now burdened with the weight of more than threescore years, took occasion to add a tenth daughter of Eve to his harem. The favoured lady was a widow, by name Maimuna, and though upwards of fifty-one years of age, she lived for thirty years, to boast that she has been numbered amongst the wives of the Apostle of the Lord.
Muhammad now thought himself strong enough to measure swords with the Imperial troops of Rome; so taking advantage of the murder of a messenger, who had been despatched to the Ghassanide Prince at Bostra, he sent an army of 3,000 men to invade the Syrian frontier. The Muslims fought with the desperation of fanatic zeal. Victory or martyrdom was the motto of the day-but it was of no avail, the well-drilled Roman phalanxes pressed upon the brave but
comparatively ill-disciplined bands composing the Muslim army; leader after leader was slain, covered with wounds, and the skill and powers of the veteran Khalid, who had succeeded to the command, were sorely taxed to draw from the field the shattered remnant of his troops. This battle of Muta (September, A.D. 629), was, for a while, a severe blow to the prestige of Muhammad, and the rest of the year was consumed in a variety of expeditious, planned with the object of restoring to Islam that influence which could not brook defeat or reverse.
Fate was at this time pregnant with importance to the Prophet, who saw his opportunity of attacking Mecca,-the dream of his life,-the one great object of his ambition. A blood feud between two rival tribes, one of whom sought his assistance, afforded him the pretext which he had so long and so anxiously awaited. Concealing his designs till all his preparations were completed, Muhammad, on January I, A.D. 630, marched forth from Madina, at the head of from 8,000 to 10,000 men. With the view of impressing the people of Mecca with an exalted idea of the mighty army of troops which were about to sweep down upon the sacred city, the Prophet commanded that as they approached the town, each of his followers should kindle a fire on the heights above the camp. The design was successful, and Abu Sufiyan, the leader of the Quraish, who had witnessed the blaze from the walls of his capital, conceiving the notion that opposition was in vain, betook himself in the dead of the night to the tent of the Apostle of God, and embraced the faith of Islam. The defection of their leader secured the submission of his troops, and in a few hours the Prophet had accomplished his destiny-he was now Lord of Mecca! It was, indeed, a proud moment for the Lawgiver of Arabia, a moment, too, when all the noble qualities of his nature stood forth in grandeur ; for in spite of the provocations which he had received, in spite of the insults, the contumelies which the people of Mecca had heaped upon his head,
in spite, too, of the circumstance that eight years previously he had himself been driven forth an exile to Madina,-he spared the city. The affection and goodwill of the citizens were the reward of a magnanimity and moderation which have few parallels in the history of the world.
But Muhammad had no time for repose, for after an interval of about two weeks spent in purging the spot of its idols, he was compelled to set forth at the head of an army to chastise a neighbouring tribe, which had assumed an attitude of defiance. The rival troops met at Hossain on 1st Feb. A.D. 630. For a while victory was in suspense, but the fervent exhortations of the Prophet encouraged his followers to deeds of desperation, and at length the Muslim banner floated over the tents of their foes. The glory of this day was in some measure counterbalanced by the subsequent failure of the Muhammadan army before Tayif, a city which, being well provisioned and surrounded by strong battlements, successfully resisted the attacks of the warriors of the faithful. Mecca was now subdued, and firm in its allegiance, so leaving a foreman to rule the people, Muhammad betook himself once again to the city of his adoption. There seated in his Mosque, he received embassies from all quarters of Arabia, the various chiefs thinking, by an early submission, to secure the favour of a potentate, so powerful as a friend, so dangerous as a foe. "Simple though its exterior was," says Sir W. Muir, "and unpretending its forms and usages, more real power was wielded, and affairs of greater importance in the courtyard of the Mosque of Muhammad than in many an Imperial palace."
But the sunshine of prosperity was overclouded by a domestic affliction, which bore heavily upon the soul of the Prophet. Ibrahim, the son whom the Coptic maid had borne to him in his old age, and save his daughter Fatima, the only surviving member of Muhammad's offspring, was struck with illness. "Ibrahim! O Ibrahim!" cried the fond father, in accents of despair,
as he wept by the bedside of his dying child, "if it were not that the promise is faithful, aud the hope of resurrection sure; if it were not that this is the way to be trodden by all, and the last of us shall join the first, I would grieve for thee with a grief deeper even than this." But his words were addressed to a lifeless corpse; the spirit of the tender infant had fled to the Lord its maker. Prayers and intercessions could avail nought, so the Prophet turned aside. "The remainder of the days of his nursing shall be fulfilled in Paradise," was the comforting assurance which he gave to the comfortless mother.
The country was at this time disquieted by rumours of a Roman invasion, to repel which a Muslim army of upwards of 30,000 warriors assembled in October, A.D. 630; but when they marched forth towards Syria they found the peace of the border undisturbed; so they returned home, yet not before they brought to submission John the Christian Prince of Ayla or Aqaba, which potentate entered into a treaty with the Prophet, covenanting amongst other things to pay a yearly tribute to the Lord of Mecca. This campaign is worthy of note as being the last expedition undertaken during the Prophet's lifetime.
The following year, AD. 630-631, was spent in sweeping away the remnants of idolatry, which still existed in some places, co-equally with the worship of the One God. Amidst the cries and lamentations of the women, the idol of Lat at Tayif was hewn down and broken to pieces. No idolater in future could take part in the pilgrimage; no unbeliever henceforth should enter Paradise. The mission of Islam was inexorable:Jew, Pagan and Christian were alike set aside the religion of the future was to be the worship of the One God. "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is His Prophet," had become a factor in the world's history; the key of Paradise was, to use the Prophet's own striking words, "to testify that there is no God but the Lord alone. With him there is no partner."
The work of Muhammad was now well nigh complete; from north, south, east, and west there was a constant stream of embassies, charged with tendering homage to the Prophet who had risen to power. With the weight of sixty-three summers on his shoulders, it might have been supposed that the venerable Apostle would wish to pass in ease and repose the remaining years of his eventful life; but this could not be done till he had performed the Greater Pilgrimage to Mecca. Accordingly, in March A.D. 632, the Prophet, assuming the pilgrim garb, set out on the journey to the sacred city, followed by vast multitudes; when all the ceremonies were concluded, he betook himself to a spot in the Valley of Mecca, and addressed the people in memorable terms. "Ye people! hearken to my words; for I know not whether after this year I shall ever be amongst you here again," was the stirring commencement of an exhortation, which was felt on all sides to be the parting words of the speaker who stood before the assembled multitude. Then followed a variety of injunctions regarding the social duties of the Muslims, alike in respect of their private households, as with reference to their relations towards one another. This done, looking up to Heaven, the Prophet exclaimed, "O Lord, I have delivered my message and fulfilled my mission !" "Yea, thou hast," was the response of the teeming multitudes around him. "O Lord, I beseech Thee bear Thou witness unto it" With these words the Prophet closed his address. The occasion and the language were alike remarkable - it was the seal of Islam.
The end was evidently rapidly approaching; sick in body, and emaciated in frame, it remained for Muhammad only "to busy himself in the praises of his Lord, and to seek for pardon." Such, in his own words, was now his mission. No longer able to visit in turn the homes of his numerous wives, he announced his intention of betaking himself to the abode of Ayisha, who had from the first possessed an inscrutable hold over the affections of
her husband. Faithful to her charge, the youthful wife-she was at this time but twenty years of age-watched and tended the bedside of her aged lord and master; the affection of so young and beautiful a damsel for the aged and infirm Prophet was touching and pathetic. It was the romance of Islam. Prostrate with fever, and scarce able to move from his couch, the Apostle of God felt that his end was at hand; so repairing, though with tottering steps, to the Mosque, he there, amidst the tears and sobs of his faithful followers, addressed them in accents of mingled pride and affection. But the excitement of the occasion was too much for his exhausted strength, and for some days the flame of existence flickered in the socket; at length, however, the paroxysm of pain passed away, and, finding a slight return of strength, the Prophet again appeared before the congregation. It was a striking scene-the Mosque, at all times full when Muhammad was present, was on this occasion, the memorable 8th June, 632, thronged to suffocation, for the dangerous condition of his illness had become known throughout the city. With slow and weary steps the venerable Prophet, supported by two attendants, repaired to his accustomed spot; too weak to lead the devotions, the task devolved upon the faithful Abu Bakr; yet "the Lord verily had granted unto Muhammad refreshment in prayer," and mustering the feeble remnants of his decaying strength, he spoke with emotion as to the single-mindedness of his actions, and his belief in his mission. But the effort severely taxed his emaciated frame and feeble energies, and on reaching his apartments he was seized with an attack of delirium. Ayisha thereupon lifted his right hand and rubbed it to restore animation, repeating at the same time an invocation which the Prophet himself had been wont to use when visiting the sick. It may well be imagined his weak body could ill bear such rough, though affectionate usage; so, on recovering his consciousness, he begged that he might be left quiet. He then muttered a scarce audible prayer: "Lord grant
me pardon, and join me to the companionship on high." Too weak to continue his devotions, he lay back on his' bed, and there was stillness, interrupted at times with ejaculations," Eternity in Paradise. Pardon ! Yes, the blessed companionship on high!" Grand, noble expressions were these, the last words which hung on the lips of the dying Muslim. After a few moments, perceiving a change, Ayisha, with her arms around her lord, looked up as the grey head grew heavy on her breast. It needed not the instinct of a ministering angel to realize that the soul of the Prophet of Arabia had winged its way to the Mansion in the skies. . Such was Muhammad: such his life, such his death! "He was piously interred," says the historian of the Roman Empire, "on the same spot on which he expired. Madina has been sanctified by the death and burial of Muhammad, and the innumerable pilgrims of Mecca often turn aside from the way, to bow, in voluntary devotion, before the simple tomb of the Prophet."
Muhammad - His Life and Doctrines with Accounts of his Immediate Successors
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