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The good sense of Mahomet" despised the pomp chAP. of royalty: the apostle of God submitted to the me- —“– nial offices of the family; he kindled the fire, swept o the floor, milked the ewes, and mended with his own met. hands his shoes and his woollen garment. Disdaining the penance and merit of a hermit, he observed, without effort or vanity, the abstemious diet of an Arab and a soldier. On solemn occasions he feasted his companions with rustic and hospitable plenty; but in his domestic life, many weeks would elapse without a fire being kindled on the hearth of the prophet. The interdiction of wine was confirmed by his example: his hunger was appeased with a sparing allowance of barley-bread: he delighted in the taste of milk and honey; but his ordinary food consisted of dates and water. Perfumes and women were the two sensual enjoyments which his nature required, and his religion did not forbid; and Mahomet affirmed, that the fervour of his devotion was increased by these innocent pleasures. The heat of the climate inflames the blood of the Arabs; and their libidinous complexion has been noticed by the writers of antiquity." Their incontinence was regulated by the civil and religious laws of the Koran: their incestuous alliances were blamed: the boundless licence of polygamy was reduced to four legitimate wives or concubines; their rights both of bed and of dowry were equitably determined; the freedom of divorce was discouraged, adultery was condemned as
* For the domestic life of Mahomet, consult Gagnier, and the corresponding chapters of Abulfeda; for his diet (tom. iii. p. 285–288); his children (p. 189. 289); his wives (p. 290–303); his marriage with Zeineb (tom. ii. p. 152– 160); his amour with Mary (p. 303—309); the false accusation of Ayesha (p. 186—199). The most original evidence of the three last transactions is contained in the xxivth, xxxiiid, and lxvith chapters of the Koran, with Sale's Com
mentary. Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, p. 80–90) and Maracci (Prodrom. Alcoran, part iv. p. 49–59) have maliciously exaggerated the frailties of Mahomet.
* Incredibile est quo ardore apud cos in Venerem uterque solvitur sexus (Ammian. Marcellin. l. xiv. c. 4).
a capital offence; and fornication, in either sex, was punished with a hundred stripes." Such were the calm and rational precepts of the legislator: but in his private conduct, Mahomet indulged the appetites of a man, and abused the claims of a prophet. A special revelation dispensed him from the laws which he had imposed on his nation; the female sex, without reserve, was abandoned to his desires; and this singular prerogative excited the envy, rather than the scandal, the veneration, rather than the envy, of the devout Musulmans. If we remember the seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines of the wise Solomon, we shall applaud the modesty of the Arabian, who espoused no more than seventeen or fifteen wives; eleven are enumerated who occupied at Medina their separate apartments round the house of the apostle, and enjoyed in their turns the favour of his conjugal society. What is singular enough, they were all widows, excepting only Ayesha, the daughter of Abubeker. She was doubtless a virgin, since Mahomet consummated his nuptials (such is the premature ripeness of the climate) when she was only nine years of age. The youth, the beauty, the spirit of Ayesha, gave her a superior ascendant: she was beloved and trusted by the prophet; and, after his death, the daughter of Abubeker was long revered as the mother of the faithful. Her behaviour had been ambiguous and indiscreet: in a nocturnal march she was accidentally left behind; and in the morning Ayesha returned to the camp with a man. The temper of Mahomet was inclined to jealousy; but a divine revelation assured him of her innocence: he chastised her accusers, and published a law of domestic peace, that no woman should be condemned unless four male witnesses had seen her in the act of adultery." In his CHAP.
* Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 133–137) has recapitulated the laws of marriage, divorce, &c.; and the curious reader of Selden's Uxor Hebraica will recognise many Jewish ordinances.
adventures with Zeineb, the wife of Zeid, and with Mary, an Egyptian captive, the amorous prophet forgot the interest of his reputation. At the house of Zeid, his freedman and adopted son, he beheld, in a loose undress, the beauty of Zeineb, and burst forth into an ejaculation of devotion and desire. The servile, or grateful, freedman understood the hint, and yielded without hesitation to the love of his benefactor. But as the filial relation had excited some doubt and scandal, the angel Gabriel descended from heaven to ratify the deed, to annul the adoption, and gently to reprove the apostle for distrusting the indulgence of his God. One of his wives, Hafna, the daughter of Omar, surprised him on her own bed, in the embraces of his Egyptian captive: she promised secrecy and forgiveness: he swore that he would renounce the possession of Mary. Both parties forgot their engagements; and Gabriel again descended with a chapter of the Koran, to absolve him from his oath, and to exhort him freely to enjoy his captives and concubines, without listening to the clamours of his wives. In a solitary retreat of thirty days, he laboured, alone with Mary, to fulfil the commands of the angel. When his love and revenge were satiated, he summoned to his presence his eleven wives, reproached their disobedience and indiscretion, and threatened them with a sentence of divorce, both in this world and in the next: a dreadful sentence, since those who had ascended the bed of the prophet were for ever excluded from the hope of a second marriage. Perhaps the incontinence of Mahomet may be palliated by the tradition of his natural or preternatural gifts;" he united the manly virtue of thirty of the
• In a memorable case, the caliph Omar decided that all presumptive evidence was of no avail; and that all the four witnesses must have actually seen stylum in pyxide (Abulfedae Annales Moslemici, p. 71. vers. Reiske).
* Sibi robur ad generationem, quantum triginta viri habent, inesse jactaret:
char. children of Adam; and the apostle might rival the
thirteenth labour* of the Grecian Hercules." A
their infancy. Mary, his Egyptian concubine, was CHAP. endeared to him by the birth of Ibrahim. At the to
end of fifteen months the prophet wept over his grave; but he sustained with firmness the raillery of his enemies, and checked the adulation or credulity of the Moslems, by the assurance that an eclipse of the sun was not occasioned by the death of the infant. Cadijah had likewise given him four daughters, who were married to the most faithful of his disciples: the three eldest died before their father; but Fatima, who possessed his confidence and love, became the wife of her cousin Ali, and the mother of an illustrious progeny. The merit and misfortunes of Ali and his descendants will lead me to anticipate, in this place, the series of the Saracen caliphs, a title which describes the commanders of the faithful as the vicars and successors of the apostle of God."
The birth, the alliance, the character of Ali, which character
exalted him above the rest of his countrymen, might justify his claim to the vacant throne of Arabia. The son of Abu Taleb was, in his own right, the chief of the family of Hashem, and the hereditary prince or guardian of the city and temple of Mecca. The light of prophecy was extinct; but the husband of Fatima might expect the inheritance and blessing of her father: the Arabs had sometimes been patient of a
female reign; and the two grandsons of the prophet
had often been fondled in his lap, and shown in his pulpit, as the hope of his age, and the chief of the youth of paradise. The first of the true believers
j This outline of the Arabian history is drawn from the Bibliothéque Orientale of D'Herbelot (under the names of Aboubecre, Omar, Othman, Ali, &c.); from the Annals of Abulfeda, Abulpharagius, and Elmacin (under the proper years of the Hegira), and especially from Ockley's History of the Saracens (vol. i. p. 1–10. 115–122. 229–249. 363—372. 378–391, and almost the whole of the second volume). Yet we should weigh with caution the traditions of the hostile sects; a stream which becomes still more muddy as it flows farther from the source. Sir John Chardin has too faithfully copied the fables and errors of the modern Persians (Voyages, tom. ii. p. 235–250, &c.)