« ForrigeFortsett »
CHAP. be saved, by their own faith and his intercession, from *— eternal damnation. It is not surprising that super
stition should act most powerfully on the fears of her votaries, since the human fancy can paint with more energy the misery than the bliss of a future life. With the two simple elements of darkness and fire, we create a sensation of pain, which may be aggravated to an infinite degree by the idea of endless duration. But the same idea operates with an opposite effect on the continuity of pleasure; and too much of our present enjoyments is obtained from the relief, or the comparison, of evil. It is natural enough that an Arabian prophet should dwell with rapture on the groves, the fountains, and the rivers, of paradise; but instead of inspiring the blessed inhabitants with a liberal taste for harmony and science, conversation and friendship, he idly celebrates the pearls and diamonds, the robes of silk, palaces of marble, dishes of gold, rich wines, artificial dainties, numerous attendants, and the whole train of sensual and costly luxury, which becomes insipid to the owner, even in the short period of this mortal life. Seventy-two Houris, or black-eyed girls, of resplendent beauty, blooming youth, virgin purity, and exquisite sensibility, will be created for the use of the meanest believer; a moment of pleasure will be prolonged to a thousand years, and his faculties will be increased a hundred fold, to render him worthy of his felicity. Notwithstanding a vulgar prejudice, the gates of heaven will be open to both sexes; but Mahomet has not specified the male companions of the female elect, lest he should either alarm the jealousy of their former husbands, or disturb their felicity, by the suspicion of an everlasting marriage. This image of a carnal paradise has provoked the indignation, perhaps the envy, of the monks: they declaim against the impure religion of Mahomet; and his modest apologists are driven to the poor excuse of figures and allegories. But the sounder and more consistent chAP.
party adhere, without shame, to the literal interpreta-
f For the day of judgment, hell, paradise, &c. consult the Koran (c. 2. v. 25. c. 56.78, &c.); with Maracci's virulent, but learned, refutation (in his notes, and in the Prodromus, part iv. p. 78.120. 122, &c.); D'Herbelot (Bibliothéque Orientale, p. 368. 375); Reland (p. 47–61); and Sale (p. 76–103). The original ideas of the Magi are darkly and doubtfully explored by their apologist Dr. Hyde (Hist. Religionis Persarum, c. 33. p. 402–412. Oxon. 1760). In the article of Mahomet, Bayle has shown how indifferently wit and philosophy supply the absence of genuine information.
* Before I enter on the history of the prophet, it is incumbent on me to produce my evidence. The Latin, French, and English versions of the Koran are preceded by historical discourses, and the three translators, Maracci (tom. i. p. 10–32), Savary (tom. i. p. 1–248), and Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 33 –56), had accurately studied the language and character of their author. Two professed lives of Mahomet have been composed by Dr. Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, seventh edition, London, 1718, in octavo) and the Count de Boulainvilliers (Vie de Mahomed, Londres, 1730, in octavo); but the adverse wish of finding an impostor or a hero, has too often corrupted the learning of the doctor and the ingenuity of the count. The article in D'Herbelot (Bibliot. Orient. p. 598–603) is chiefly drawn from Novairi and Mircond; but the best and most authentic of our guides is M. Gagnier, a Frenchman by birth, and professor at Oxford of the oriental tongues. In two elaborate works (Ismael Abulfeda de Vita et Rebus gestis Mohammedis, &c. Latine vertit, Praefatione et Notis illustravit Johannes Gagnier, Oxon. 1723, in folio. La Vie de Mahomet traduite et compilée de l'Alcoran, des Traditions authentiques de la Sonna et des meilleurs Auteurs Arabes; Amsterdam, 1748, 3 vols. in 12mo.) he has interpreted, illustrated, and supplied the Arabic text of Abulfeda and Al Jannabi; the first, an enlightened prince, who reigned at Hamah, in Syria, A. D. 1310 —1332 (see Gagnier Praefat, ad Abulfed.); the second, a credulous doctor, who visited Mecca A. D. 1556. (D'Herbelot, p. 397. Gagnier, tom. iii. p. 209, 210). These are my general vouchers, and the inquisitive reader may follow the order of time, and the division of chapters. Yet I must observe, that both Abulfeda and Al Jannabi are modern historians, and that they cannot appeal to any writers of the first century of the Hegira.
were those of his wife, his servant, his pupil, and his friend;" since he presented himself as a prophet to those who were most conversant with his infirmities as a man. Yet Cadijah believed the words, and cherished the glory, of her husband; the obsequious and affectionate Zeid was tempted by the prospect of freedom; the illustrious Ali, the son of Abu Taleb, embraced the sentiments of his cousin with the spirit of a youthful hero; and the wealth, the moderation, the veracity of Abubeker, confirmed the religion of the prophet whom he was destined to succeed. By his persuasion, ten of the most respectable citizens of Mecca were introduced to the private lessons of Islam; they yielded to the voice of reason and enthusiasm; they repeated the fundamental creed; “there is but one God, and Mahomet is the apostle of God;” and their faith, even in this life, was rewarded with riches and honours, with the command of armies and the government of kingdoms. Three years were silently employed in the conversion of fourteen proselytes, the first fruits of his mission; but in the fourth year he assumed the prophetic office, and resolving to impart to his family the light of divine truth, he prepared a banquet, a lamb, as it is said, and a bowl of milk, for the entertainment of forty guests of the race of Hashem. “Friends and kinsmen,” said Mahomet to the assembly, “I offer you, and I alone can offer, the most precious of gifts, the treasures of this world and of the world to come. God has commanded me to call you to his service. Who among you will support my burthen? Who among you will be my companion and my vizir?” No answer was returned, till the silence of astonishment, and doubt, and con- CHAP,
* After the Greeks, Prideaux (p. 8) discloses the secret doubts of the wife of
tempt, was at length broken by the impatient courage of Ali, a youth in the fourteenth year of his age. “O prophet, I am the man: whosoever rises against thee, I will dash out his teeth, tear out his eyes, break his legs, rip up his belly. O prophet, I will be thy vizir over them.” Mahomet accepted his offer with transport, and Abu Taleb was ironically exhorted to respect the superior dignity of his son. In a more serious tone, the father of Ali advised his nephew to relinquish his impracticable design. “Spare your remonstrances,” replied the intrepid fanatic to his uncle and benefactor; “if they should place the sun on my right hand, and the moon on my left, they should not divert me from my course.” He persevered ten years in the exercise of his mission; and the religion which has overspread the East and the West advanced with a slow and painful progress within the walls of Mecca. Yet Mahomet enjoyed the satisfaction of beholding the increase of his infant congregation of Unitarians, who revered him as a prophet, and to whom he seasonably dispensed the spiritual nourishment of the Koran. The number of proselytes may be esteemed by the absence of eightythree men and eighteen women, who retired to AEthiopia in the seventh year of his mission: and his party was fortified by the timely conversion of his uncle Hamza, and of the fierce and inflexible Omar, who signalised in the cause of Islam the same zeal which he had exerted for its destruction. Nor'was the charity of Mahomet confined to the tribe of Koreish, or the precincts of Mecca: on solemn festivals, in the days of pilgrimage, he frequented the Caaba, accosted the strangers of every tribe, and urged, both in private converse and public discourse,
p. 19). I endeavour to preserve the Arabian idiom, as far as I can feel it myself, in a Latin or French translation.
the belief and worship of a sole Deity. Conscious of his reason and of his weakness, he asserted the liberty of conscience, and disclaimed the use of religious violence: but he called the Arabs to repentance, and conjured them to remember the ancient idolators of Ad and Thamud, whom the divine justice had swept away from the face of the earth." The people of Mecca were hardened in their unbelief by superstition and envy. The elders of the city, the uncles of the prophet, affected to despise the presumption of an orphan, the reformer of his country: the pious orations of Mahomet in the Caaba were answered by the clamours of Abu Taleb. “Citizens and pilgrims, listen not to the tempter, hearken not to his impious novelties. Stand fast in the worship of Al Lāta and Al Uzzah.” Yet the son of Abdallah was ever dear to the aged chief; and he protected the fame and person of his nephew against the assaults of the Koreishites, who had long been jealous of the pre-eminence of the family of Hashem. Their malice was coloured with the pretence of religion: in the age of Job, the crime of impiety was punished by the Arabian magistrate;" and Mahomet was guilty of deserting and denying the national deities. But so loose was the policy of
3 The passages of the Koran in behalf of toleration are strong and numerous: c. 2. v. 257. c. 16. 129. c. 17. 54. c. 45. 15. c. 50. 39. c. 88.21, &c. with the notes of Maracci and Sale. This character alone may generally decide the doubts of the learned, whether a chapter was revealed at Mecca or Medina.
* See the Koran (passim, and especially c. 7. p. 123, 124, &c.) and the tradition of the Arabs (Pocock, Specimen, p. 35–37). The caverns of the tribe of Thamud, fit for men of the ordinary stature, were shown in the midway between Medina and Damascus (Abulfed. Arabia. Descript. p. 43,44), and may be probably ascribed to the Troglodytes of the primitive world (Michaelis, ad Lowth de Poesi Hebræor. p. 131–134. Recherches sur les Egyptiens, tom. ii. p. 48, &c.)
*In the time of Job, the crime of impiety was punished by the Arabian magistrate (c. 31. v. 26, 27, 28). I blush for a respectable prelate (de Poesi Hebra orum, p. 650, 651. edit. Michaelis; and letter of a late professor in the university of Oxford, p. 15–53), who justifies and applauds this patriarchal inqui. sition.