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climate of Mecca might become useless or inconvenient on the banks of the Danube or the Volga.
Arabia was free: the adjacent kingdoms were Introduc.
shaken by the storms of conquest and tyranny, and the persecuted sects fled to the happy land where they might profess what they thought, and practise what they professed. The religions of the Sabians and Magians, of the Jews and Christians, were disseminated from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea. In a remote period of antiquity, Sabianism was diffused over Asia by the science of the Chaldeans" and the arms of the Assyrians. From the observations of two thousand years, the priests and astronomers of Babylon" deduced the eternal laws of nature and providence. They adored the seven gods, or angels, who directed the course of the seven planets, and shed their irresistible influence on the earth. The attributes of the seven planets, with the twelve signs of the zodiac, and the twenty-four constellations of the northern and southern hemisphere, were represented by images and talismans; the seven days of the week were dedicated to their respective deities; the Sabians prayed thrice each day; and the temple of the moon at Haran was the term of their pilgrimage." But the flexible genius of their faith was always ready either to teach or to learn: in the tra
tion of the Sabians.
• Diodorus Siculus (tom. i. 1. ii. p. 142–145) has cast on their religion the curious but superficial glance of a Greek. Their astronomy would be far more valuable; they had looked through the telescope of reason, since they could doubt whether the sun were in the number of the planets or of the fixed stars.
* Simplicius (who quotes Porphyry), de Coelo, l. ii. com. xlvi. p. 123. lin. 18. apud Marsham, Canon. Chron. p. 474, who doubts the fact, because it is adverse to his systems. The earliest date of the Chaldean observations is the year 2234 before Christ. After the conquest of Babylon by Alexander, they were communicated, at the request of Aristotle, to the astronomer Hipparchus. What a moment in the annals of science 1
* Pocock (Specimen, p. 138–146), Hottinger (Hist. Orient. p. 162–203),
Hyde (de Religione Vet. Persarum, p. 124. 128, &c.), D'Herbelot (Sabi,
p. 725,726), and Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 14, 15), rather excite than gratify our curiosity; and the last of these writers confounds Sabianism with the primitive religion of the Arabs.
CHAP. dition of the creation, the deluge, and the patriarchs, * they held a singular agreement with their Jewish captives; they appealed to the secret books of Adam, Seth, and Enoch; and a slight infusion of the gospel has transformed the last remnant of the Polytheists into the Christians of St. John, in the territory of Bassora." The altars of Babylon were overturned The Ma- by the Magians; but the injuries of the Sabians *" were revenged by the sword of Alexander; Persia groaned above five hundred years under a foreign yoke; and the purest disciples of Zoroaster escaped from the contagion of idolatry, and breathed with The Jews, their adversaries the freedom of the desert.* Seven hundred years before the death of Mahomet, the Jews were settled in Arabia: and a far greater multitude was expelled from the holy land in the wars of Titus and Hadrian. The industrious exiles aspired to liberty and power: they erected synagogues in the cities, and castles in the wilderness, and their Gentile converts were confounded with the children of Israel, whom they resembled in the outward mark of circumThe Chris cision. The Christian missionaries were still more tians. active and successful: the Catholics asserted their universal reign; the sects whom they oppressed successively retired beyond the limits of the Roman empire; the Marcionites and the Manichaeans dispersed their phantastic opinions and apocryphal gospels; the churches of Yemen, and the princes of Hira and Gassan, were instructed in a purer creed by the Jacobite and Nestorian bishops.” The liberty of choice was presented to the tribes: each Arab was free to elect char.
* D'Anville (l'Euphrate et le Tigre, p. 130–147) will fix the position of these ambiguous Christians; Assemannus (Bibliot. Oriental. tom. iv. p. 607– 614) may explain their tenets. But it is a slippery task to ascertain the creed of an ignorant people, afraid and ashamed to disclose their secret traditions.
s The Magi were fixed in the province of Bahrein (Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 114), and mingled with the old Arabians (Pocock, Specimen, p. 146 —150).
* The state of the Jews and Christians in Arabia is described by Pocock from Sharestani, &c. (Specimen, p. 60. 134, &c.), Hottinger (Hist. Orient. p. 212–
or to compose his private religion: and the rude su-
238), D'Herbelot (Bibliot. Orient. p. 474–476), Basnage (Hist, des Juifs, tom. vii. p. 185. tom. viii. p. 280), and Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 22, &c. 33, &c.) i In their offerings it was a maxim to defraud God for the profit of the idol, not a more potent, but a more irritable patron (Pocock, Specimen, p. 108, 109). j Our versions now extant, whether Jewish or Christian, appear more recent than the Koran; but the existence of a prior translation may be fairly inferred, —l. From the perpetual practice of the synagogue, of expounding the Hebrew lesson by a paraphrase in the vulgar tongue of the country. 2. From the analogy of the Armenian, Persian, AEthiopic versions, expressly quoted by the fathers of the fifth century, who assert that the Scriptures were translated into all the barbaric languages (Walton, Prolegomena ad Biblia Polyglot. p. 34. 93–97.
Simon, Hist. Critique du V. et du N. Testament, tom. i. p. 180, 181. 282—
286. 293. 305, 306. tom. iv. p. 206).
unskilful calumny of the Christians," who exalt instead of degrading the merit of their adversary. His descent from Ismael was a national privilege or fable; but if the first steps of the pedigree" are dark and doubtful, he could produce many generations of pure and genuine nobility: he sprung from the tribe of Koreish and the family of Hashem, the most illustrious of the Arabs, the princes of Mecca, and the hereditary guardians of the Caaba. The grandfather of Mahomet was Abdol Motalleb, the son of Hashem, a wealthy and generous citizen, who relieved the distress offamine with the supplies ofcommerce. Mecca, which had been fed by the liberality of the father, was saved by the courage of the son. The kingdom of Yemen was subject to the Christian princes of Abyssinia: their vassal Abrahah was provoked by an insult to avenge the honour of the cross; and the holy city was invested by a train of elephants, and an army of Africans. A treaty was proposed; and in the first audience, the grandfather of Mahomet demanded the restitution of his cattle. “And why,” said Abrahah, “do you not rather implore my clemency in favour of your temple, which I have threatened to destroy?” “Because,” replied the intrepid chief, “the cattle is my own; the Caaba belongs to the gods, and they will defend their house from injury and sacrilege.” The want of provisions, or the valour of the Koreish, compelled the Abyssinians to a disgraceful retreat: their discomfiture has been adorned with a miraculous flight CHAP. of birds, who showered down stones on the heads to of the infidels; and the deliverance was long commemorated by the aera of the elephant." The glory of Abdol Motalleb was crowned with domestic hap-Deliverance piness, his life was prolonged to the age of one hun- “* dred and ten years, and he became the father of six daughters and thirteen sons. His best beloved Abdallah was the most beautiful and modest of the Arabian youth; and in the first night, when he consummated his marriage with Amina, of the noble race of the Zahrites, two hundred virgins are said to have expired of jealousy and despair. Mahomet, or more properly Mohammed, the only son of Abdallah and Amina, was born at Mecca, four years after the death of Justinian, and two months after the defeat of the Abyssinians," whose victory would have introduced into the Caaba the religion of the Christians. In his early infancy, he was deprived of his father, his mother, and his grandfather; his uncles were strong and numerous; and in the division of the inheritance, the orphan’s share was reduced to five camels and an AEthiopian maid-servant. At home and abroad, in
* In eo conveniunt omnes, ut plebeio vilique genere ortum, &c. (Hottinger, Hist. Orient. p. 136). Yet Theophanes, the most ancient of the Greeks, and the father of many a lie, confesses that Mahomet was of the race of Ismael, ex Aziz, yovuzaro.orns ovans (Chronograph. p. 277).
| Abulfeda (in Vit. Mohammed. c. 1. 2) and Gagnier (Vie de Mahomet, p. 25—97) describe the popular and approved genealogy of the prophet. At Mecca, I would not dispute its authenticity : at Lausanne, I will venture to observe, 1. That from Ismael to Mahomet, a period of 2500 years, they reckon thirty, instead of seventy-five, generations. 2. That the modern Bedoweens are ignorant of their history, and careless of their pedigree (Voyage de d'Arvieux, p. 100. 103). - -
m The seed of this history, or fable, is contained in the cvth chapter of the Koran; and Gagnier (in Praefat. ad Vit. Moham. p. 18, &c.) has translated the historical narrative of Abulfeda, which may be illustrated from D'Herbelot (Bibliot. Orientale, p. 12) and Pocock (Specimen, p. 64). Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, p. 48) calls it a lie of the coinage of Mahomet; but Sale (Koran, p. 501—503), who is half a Musulman, attacks the inconsistent faith of the Doctor for believing the miracles of the Delphic Apollo. Maracci (Alcoran, tom. i. part ii. p. 14, tom. ii. p. 823) ascribes the miracle to the devil, and extorts from the Mahometans the confession, that God would not have defended against the Christians the idols of the Caaba.
"The safest aeras of Abulfeda (in Vit. c. i. p. 2), of Alexander, or the Greeks, 882, of Bocht Naser, or Nabonasser, 1316, equally lead us to the year 569. The old Arabian calendar is too dark and uncertain to support the Benedictines (Art de verifier les Dates, p. 15), who, from the day of the month and week, deduce a new mode of calculation, and remove the birth of Mahomet to the year of Christ 570, the 10th of November. Yet this date would agree with the year 882 of the Greeks, which is assigned by Elmacin (Hist. Saracen. p. 5) and Abulpharagius (Dynast. p. 101, and Errata, Pocock's version). While we refine our chronology, it is possible that the illiterate prophet was ignorant of his own age.