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peace and war, Abu Taleb, the most respectable of his uncles, was the guide and guardian of his youth; in his twenty-fifth year, he entered into the service of Cadijah, a rich and noble widow of Mecca, who soon rewarded his fidelity with the gift of her hand and fortune. The marriage contract, in the simple style of antiquity, recites the mutual love of Mahomet and Cadijah; describes him as the most accomplished of the tribe of Koreish; and stipulates a dowry of twelve ounces of gold and twenty camels, which was supplied by the liberality of his uncle.” By this alliance, the son of Abdallah was restored to the station of his ancestors; and the judicious matron was content with his domestic virtues, till, in the fortieth year of his age,” he assumed the title of a prophet, and proclaimed the religion of the Koran. According to the tradition of his companions, Mahomet" was distinguished by the beauty of his person, an outward gift which is seldom despised, except by those to whom it has been refused. Before he spoke, the orator engaged on his side the affections of a public or private audience. They applauded his commanding presence, his majestic aspect, his piercing eye, his gracious smile, his flowing beard, his countenance that painted every sensation of the soul, and CHAP.
Qualifications of the prophet.
* I copy the honourable testimony of Abu Taleb to his family and nephew. Laus Dei, quinos a stirpe Abrahami et semine Ismaelis constituit, et nobis regionem sacram dedit, et nos judices hominibus statuit. Porro Mohammed filius Abdollahi nepotis mei (nepos meus) quo cum ex aequo librabitur e Koraishidis quispiam cui non praeponderaturus est, bonitate et excellentiá, et intellects et gloria, et acumine, etsiopum inops fuerit (et certe opes umbra transiens sunt et depositum quod reddi debet), desiderio Chadija filiae Chowailedi tenetur, et illa vicissim ipsius, quicquid autem dotis vice petieritis, ego in me suscipiam (Pocock, Specimen, e septimă parte libri Ebn Hamduni).
P The private life of Mahomet, from his birth to his mission, is preserved by Abulfeda (in Wit. c. 3—7) and the Arabian writers of genuine or apocryphal note, who are alleged by Hottinger (Hist. Orient. p. 204–211), Maracci (tom. i. p. 10–14), and Gagnier (Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 97–134).
* Abulfeda, in Vit. c. lxv, lxvi. Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 272 —289; the best traditions of the person and conversation of the prophet are derived from Ayesha, Ali, and Abu Horaira (Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 267. Ockley's Hist. of the Saracens, vol. ii. p. 149), surnamed the Father of a Cat, who died in the year 59 of the Hegira.
his gestures that enforced each expression of the tongue. In the familiar offices of life he scrupulously adhered to the grave and ceremonious politeness of his country; his respectful attention to the rich and powerful was dignified by his condescension and affability to the poorest citizens of Mecca: the frankness of his manner concealed the artifice of his views; and the habits of courtesy were imputed to personal friendship or universal benevolence. His memory was capacious and retentive, his wit easy and social, his imagination sublime, his judgment clear, rapid, and decisive. He possessed the courage both of thought and action; and, although his designs might gradually expand with his success, the first idea which he entertained of his divine mission bears the stamp of an original and superior genius. The son of Abdallah was educated in the bosom of the noblest race, in the use of the purest dialect of Arabia; and the fluency of his speech was corrected and enhanced by the practice of discreet and seasonable silence. With these powers of eloquence, Mahomet was an illiterate barbarian: his youth had never been instructed in the arts of reading and writing;" the common ignorance exempted him from shame or reproach, but he was reduced to a narrow circle of existence, and deprived
* Those who believe that Mahomet could read or write are incapable of reading what is written, with another pen, in the Surats, or Chapters of the Koran, vii. xxix. xcvi. These texts, and the tradition of the Sonna, are admitted, without doubt, by Abulfeda (in Vit. c. vii), Gagnier, (Not ad Abulfed. F. 15), Pocock (Specimen, p. 151), Reland (de Religione Mohammedica, p. 236), and Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 42). Mr. White, almost alone, denies the ignorance, to accuse the imposture, of the prophet. His arguments are far from satisfactory. Two short trading journeys to the fairs of Syria were surely not sufficient to infuse a science so rare among the citizens of Mecca; it was not in the cool deliberate act of a treaty, that Mahomet would have dropt the mask; nor can any conclusion be drawn from the words of disease and delirium. The lettered youth, before he aspired to the prophetic character, must have often exercised, in private life, the arts of reading and writing; and his first converts, of his own family, would have been the first to detect and upbraid his scandalous hypocrisy (White's Sermons, p. 203, 204. Notes, p. xxxvi-xxxviii).
chap. of those faithful mirrors, which reflect to our mind
the minds of sages and heroes. Yet the book of nature and of man was open to his view; and some fancy has been indulged in the political and philosophical observations which are ascribed to the Arabian traveller." He compares the nations and the religions of the earth; discovers the weakness of the Persian and Roman monarchies; beholds, with pity and indignation, the degeneracy of the times; and resolves to unite, under one God and one king, the invincible spirit and primitive virtues of the Arabs. Our more accurate inquiry will suggest, that instead of visiting the courts, the camps, the temples, of the East, the two journeys of Mahomet into Syria were confined to the fairs of Bostra and Damascus: that he was only thirteen years of age when he accompanied the caravan of his uncle, and that his duty compelled him to return as soon as he had disposed of the merchandise of Cadijah. In these hasty and superficial excursions, the eye of genius might discern some objects invisible to his grosser companions; some seeds of knowledge might be cast upon a fruitful soil; but his ignorance of the Syriac language must have checked his curiosity; and I cannot perceive, in the life or writings of Mahomet, that his prospect was far extended beyond the limits of the Arabian world. From every region of that solitary world, the pilgrims of Mecca were annually assembled, by the calls of devotion and commerce: in the free concourse of multitudes, a simple citizen, in his native tongue, might study the political state and character of the tribes, the theory and practice of the Jews and Chris
• The count de Boulainvilliers (Vie de Mahomed, p. 202-—228) leads his Arabian pupil, like the Telemachus of Fenelon, or the Cyrus of Ramsay. His journey to the court of Persia is probably a fiction; nor can I trace the origin of his exclamation, “Les Grecs sont pourtant des hommes.” . The two Syrian journeys are expressed by almost all the Arabian writers, both Mahometans and Christians (Gagnier ad Abulfed. p. 10).
tians. Some useful strangers might be tempted, or CHAP.
forced, to implore the rights of hospitality; and the
enemies of Mahomet have named the Jew, the Persian, and the Syrian monk, whom they accuse of lending their secret aid to the composition of the Koran." Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius; and the uniformity of a work denotes the hand of a single artist. From his earliest youth Mahomet was addicted to religious contemplation: each year, during the month of Ramadan, he withdrew from the world, and from the arms of Cadijah: in the cave of Hera, three miles from Mecca," he consulted the spirit of fraud or enthusiasm, whose abode is not in the heavens, but in the mind of the prophet. The faith which, under the name of Islam, he preached to his family and nation, is compounded of an eternal truth, and a necessary fiction, THAT THERE Is ONLY on E GoD, AND THAT MAHOMET Is THE APOSTLE of GoD.
It is the boast of the Jewish apologists, that while One God.
the learned nations of antiquity were deluded by the fables of polytheism, their simple ancestors of Palestine preserved the knowledge and worship of the true God. The moral attributes of Jehovah may not easily be reconciled with the standard of human virtue: his metaphysical qualities are darkly expressed; but each page of the Pentateuch and the Prophets is an evidence of his power: the unity of his name is inscribed on the first table of the law; and his sanctuary was never defiled by any visible image of the
*I am not at leisure to pursue the fables or conjectures which name the strangers accused or suspected by the infidels of Mecca (Koran, c. 16. p. 223. c. 35. p. 297. with Sale's Remarks. Prideaux's Life of Mahomet, p. 22–27. Gagnier, Not. ad Abulfed. p. 11.74. Maracci, tom. ii. p. 400). Even Prideaux has observed, that the transaction must have been secret, and that the scene lay in the heart of Arabia.
"Abulfeda in Vit. c. 7. p. 15. Gagnier, tom. i. p. 133. 135. The situation of Mount Hera is remarked by Abulfeda (Geograph. Arab. p. 4). Yet Mahomet had never read of the cave of Egeria, ubi nocturnao Numa constituebat amicae, of the Idaean mount, where Minos conversed with Jove, &c.
VOL. VI. X
invisible essence. After the ruin of the temple, the faith of the Hebrew exiles was purified, fixed, and enlightened, by the spiritual devotion of the synagogue; and the authority of Mahomet will not justify his perpetual reproach, that the Jews of Mecca or Medina adored Ezra as the son of God." But the children of Israel had ceased to be a people; and the religions of the world were guilty, at least in the eyes of the prophet, of giving sons, or daughters, or companions, to the supreme God. In the rude idolatry of the Arabs, the crime is manifest and audacious: the Sabians are poorly excused by the pre-eminence of the first planet, or intelligence, in their celestial hierarchy; and in the Magian system the conflict of the two principles betrays the imperfection of the conqueror. The Christians of the seventh century had insensibly relapsed into a semblance of paganism: their public and private vows were addressed to the relics and images that disgraced the temples of the East: the throne of the Almighty was darkened by a cloud of martyrs, and saints, and angels, the objects of popular veneration; and the Collyridian heretics, who flourished in the fruitful soil of Arabia, invested the Virgin Mary with the name and honours of a goddess." The mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation appear to contradict the principle of the divine unity. In their obvious sense, they introduce three equal deities, and transform the man Jesus into the substance of the son of God: * an orthodox com
* Koran, c. 9. p. 153. Al Beidawi, and the other commentators quoted by Sale, adhere to the charge; but I do not understand that it is coloured by the most obscure or absurd tradition of the Talmudists.
* Hottinger, Hist. Orient. p. 225–228. The Collyridian heresy was carried from Thrace to Arabia by some women, and the name was borrowed from the zoxxvels, or cake, which they offered to the goddess. This example, that of Beryllus bishop of Bostra (Euseb. Hist. Eccles. 1. vi. c. 33), and several others, may excuse the reproach, Arabia haeresean ferax.
* The three gods in the Koran (c. 4, p. 81. c. 5. p. 92) are obviously directed against our Catholic mystery: but the Arabic commentators understand them of the Father, the Son, and the Virgin Mary, an heretical Trinity, maintained, as