years, fifteen hundred Moslems, in arms and in the field, renewed their oath of allegiance; and their chief repeated the assurance of protection till the death of the last member, or the final dissolution of the party. It was in the same camp that the deputy of Mecca was astonished by the attention of the faithful to the words and looks of the prophet, by the eagerness with which they collected his spittle, a hair that dropped on the ground, the refuse water of his lustrations, as if they participated in some degree of the prophetic virtue. “I have seen,” said he, “the Chosroes of Persia and the Caesar of Rome, but never did Ibehold a king among his subjects like Mahomet among his companions.” The devout fervour of enthusiasm acts with more energy and truth than the cold and formal servility of courts.

He declare. In the state of nature every man has a right to de

war against

the infidels.

fend, by force of arms, his person and his possessions; to repel, or even to prevent, the violence of his enemies, and to extend his hostilities to a reasonable measure of satisfaction and retaliation. In the free society of the Arabs, the duties of subject and citizen imposed a feeble restraint; and Mahomet, in the exercise of a peaceful and benevolent mission, had been despoiled and banished by the injustice of his countrymen. The choice of an independent people had exalted the fugitive of Mecca to the rank of a sovereign; and he was invested with the just prerogative of forming alliances, and of waging offensive or defensive war. The imperfection of human rights was supplied and

armed by the plenitude of divine power: the prophet

of Medina assumed, in his new revelations, a fiercer and more sanguinary tone, which proves that his

former moderation was the effect of weakness: “ the

• The viiith and ixth chapters of the Koran are the loudest and most vehe

ment; and Maracci (Prodromus, part iv. p. 59–64) has inveighed with more

justice than discretion against the double dealing of the impostor.

[ocr errors]

means of persuasion had been tried, the season of CHAP.

forbearance was elapsed, and he was now commanded
to propagate his religion by the sword, to destroy the
monuments of idolatry, and, without regarding the
sanctity of days or months, to pursue the unbelieving
nations of the earth. The same bloody precepts, so
repeatedly inculcated in the Koran, are ascribed by
the author to the Pentateuch and the Gospel. But
the mild tenor of the evangelic style may explain an
ambiguous text, that Jesus did not bring peace on the
earth, but a sword: his patient and humble virtues
should not be confounded with the intolerant zeal of
princes and bishops, who have disgraced the name of
his disciples. In the prosecution of religious war,
Mahomet might appeal with more propriety to the
example of Moses, of the judges and the kings of
Israel. The military laws of the Hebrews are still
more rigid than those of the Arabian legislator." The
Lord of hosts marched in person before the Jews: if
a city resisted their summons, the males, without di-
stinction, were put to the sword: the seven nations
of Canaan were devoted to destruction; and neither
repentance nor conversion could shield them from
the inevitable doom, that no creature within their
precincts should be left alive. The fair option of
friendship, or submission, or battle, was proposed to

the enemies of Mahomet. If they professed the

creed of Islam, they were admitted to all the tem-
poral and spiritual benefits of his primitive disciples,
and marched under the same banner to extend the
religion which they had embraced. The clemency
of the prophet was decided by his interest, yet he
seldom trampled on a prostrate enemy; and he seems

“The xth and xxth chapters of Deuteronomy, with the practical comments of Joshua, David, &c. are read with more awe than satisfaction by the pious Christians of the present age. But the bishops, as well as the rabbis of former times, have beat the drum-ecclesiastic with pleasure and success. (Sale's Preliminary Discourse, p. 142, 143).

chAP. to promise, that, on the payment of a tribute, the


least guilty of his unbelieving subjects might be indulged in their worship, or at least in their imperfect faith. In the first months of his reign, he practised the lessons of holy warfare, and displayed his white banner before the gates of Medina: the martial apostle fought in person at nine battles or sieges;" and fifty enterprises of war were achieved in ten years by himself or his lieutenants. The Arab continued to unite the professions of a merchant and a robber; and his petty excursions for the defence or the attack of a caravan insensibly prepared his troops for the conquest of Arabia. The distribution of the spoil was regulated by a divine law: " the whole was faithfully collected in one common mass: a fifth of the gold and silver, the prisoners and cattle, the moveables and immoveables, was reserved by the prophet for pious and charitable uses; the remainder was shared in adequate portions by the soldiers who had obtained the victory or guarded the camp: the rewards of the slain devolved to their widows and orphans; and the increase of cavalry was encouraged by the allotment of a double share to the horse and to the man. From all sides the roving Arabs were allured to the standard of religion and plunder: the apostle sanctified the licence of embracing the female captives as their wives or concubines; and the enjoyment of wealth and beauty was a feeble type of the joys of paradise prepared for the valiant martyrs of the faith. “The sword,” says Mahomet, “is the key of heaven and of hell: a drop of blood shed in CHAP.

* Abulfeda, in Vit. Moham. p. 156. The private arsenal of the apostle consisted of nine swords, three lances, seven pikes or half-pikes, a quiver and three bows, seven cuirasses, three shields, and two helmets (Gagnier, tom. iii. p. 328 —334), with a large white standard, a black banner (p. 335), twenty horses (p. 322), &c. Two of his martial sayings are recorded by tradition (Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 88.337).

* The whole subject de jure belli Mohammedanorum is exhausted in a separate dissertation by the learned Reland (Dissertationes Miscellaneae, tom. iii. Dissert. x. p. 3–53).

the cause of God, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting or prayer: whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven: at the day of judgment his wounds shall be resplendent as vermilion, and odoriferous as musk; and the loss of his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim.” The intrepid souls of the Arabs were fired with enthusiasm: the picture of the invisible world was strongly painted on their imagination; and the death which they had always despised became an object of hope and desire. The Koran inculcates, in the most absolute sense, the tenets of fate and predestination, which would extinguish both industry and virtue, if the actions of man were governed by his speculative belief. Yet their influence in every age has exalted the courage of the Saracens and Turks. The first companions of Mahomet advanced to battle with a fearless confidence: there is no danger where there is no chance: they were ordained to perish in their beds; or they were safe and invulnerable amidst the darts of the enemy."

Perhaps the Koreish would have been content with His defen

sive wars

the flight of Mahomet, had they not been provoked joine

and alarmed by the vengeance of an enemy, who could intercept their Syrian trade as it passed and repassed through the territory of Medina. Abu Sophian himself, with only thirty or forty followers, conducted a wealthy caravan of a thousand camels: the fortune or dexterity of his march escaped the vigilance of Mahomet; but the chief of the Koreish was informed that the holy robbers were placed in ambush to await

* The doctrine of absolute predestination, on which few religions can reproach each other, is sternly exposed in the Koran (c. 3. p. 52, 53. c. 4. p. 70, &c. with the notes of Sale, and c. 17. p. 413. with those of Maracci). Reland (de Relig. Mohamm. p. 61–64) and Sale (Prelim. Discourse, p. 103) represent the opinions of the doctors, and our modern travellers the confidence, the fading confidence, of the Turks.

[ocr errors]


his return. He despatched a messenger to his brethren of Mecca, and they were roused, by the fear of losing their merchandise and their provisions, unless they hastened to his relief with the military force of the city. The sacred band of Mahomet was formed of three hundred and thirteen Moslems, of whom seventy-seven were fugitives, and the rest auxiliaries: they mounted by turns a train of seventy camels (the camels of Yathreb were formidable in war); but such was the poverty of his first disciples, that only two could appear on horseback in the field." In the fertile and famous vale of Beder,’ three stations from

Medina, he was informed by his scouts of the caravan

that approached on one side; of the Koreish, one hundred horse, eight hundred and fifty foot, who advanced on the other. After a short debate, he sacrificed the prospect of wealth to the pursuit of glory and revenge; and a slight intrenchment was formed to cover his troops, and a stream of fresh water, that glided through the valley. “O God,” he exclaimed as the numbers of the Koreish descended from the hills, “O God, if these are destroyed, by whom wilt thou be worshipped on the earth?—Courage, my children, close your ranks; discharge your arrows, and the day is your own.” At these words he placed himself, with Abubeker, on a throne or pulpit,” and instantly demanded the succour of Ga

Battle of
A. D. 623.

* Al Jannabi (apud Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 9) allows him seventy or eighty horse; and on two other occasions prior to the battle of Ohud, he enlists a body

of thirty (p. 10), and of 500 (p. 66) troopers. Yet the Musulmans, in the

field of Ohud, had no more than two horses, according to the better sense of
Abulfeda (in Vit. Mohamm. c. xxxi. p. 65). In the Stony province, the camels
were numerous; but the horse appears to have been less common than in the
Happy or the Desert Arabia.
y Bedder Houneene, twenty miles from Medina, and forty from Mecca, is on
the high road of the caravan of Egypt; and the pilgrims annually commemorate
the prophet's victory by illuminations, rockets, &c. Shaw's Travels, p. 477.
* The place to which Mahomet retired during the action is styled by Gagnier
(in Abulfeda, c. 27. p. 58. Vie de Mahomet, tom. ii. p. 30, 33), Umbraculum,
uncloge de bois avec une porte. The same Arabic word is rendered by Reiske
(Annales Moslemici Abulfedz, p. 23) by Solium, Suggestus editior; and the

« ForrigeFortsett »