« ForrigeFortsett »
nin.; hum.red to stren thousand years; but the prophet ha* judiciously promised, that all his disciples, whatever may be
theii sins, shall be saved, by their own faith and his intercom sion from eternal damnation. It is not surprising that superstiti m should act most powerfully on the fears of her votaries, «noi the human fancy can paint with more energy the misery than the bliss of a future life. With the two simple eleDie: its of darkness and tire, 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 oui 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, wiP be created for the use of the meanest believer; a moment of pleasure will be prolonged to a thousand years; and his facul ties 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 party adhere, without shame, to the literal interpretation of the Koran: useless would be the resurrection of the body, unless it were restored to the possession and exercise of its worthiest faculties; and the union of sensual and intellectual enjoyment is requisite to complete the happiness of the double animal, the perfect nan. Yet the joys of the Mahometan paradise will aot be confined to the indulgence of luxury and appetite; aiw* the prophet has expressly declared that all meaner happiner* will be forgotten and despised by the saints and martyrs, \vb< shall be admitted to the beatitude of the divine vision.110
The first and most arduous conquests of Mahomet'" were
1" For the day of judgment, hell, paradise, <fcc, consult the Koran, (c 2, v. 25, c. 56, 78, <&c.;) with Maracci's virulent, but learned, refu Ui ion, (in his notes, and in the Prodromus, part iv. p. 78, 120, 122^ Ac;) D'Herbelot, (Bibliotheque Orientaie, p. 368, 375;) Relanu, (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.
111 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, (torn. i. p. 10—32,) Savary, (torn. 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 Mirkond; 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, <fec. Latine vertit, Praefatione el Notis illustravit Johannes Gagnier, Oxon. 1723, in folio. La Vie de Mahomet traduite et compilee 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 Piscfat, ad Abulfed.;) the second, a credulous doctor, who visited Mecca A. D. 1556. (D'Herbelot, p. 397. Gagnier. torn. 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 1 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*
* A new Life, by Lr. Weil, (Stuttirart. 1843,) has added some few tra ditions unknown in Europe. Of Dr. Weil's Arabic scholarship, which on fesses to correct many errors in Gagnier, in Maracci. and in M. von Hammer, I am no judge. But it is remarkable that he does not seem acquainted with the passage of Tabari, translated by Colonel Vans Kenn^y, in the Bombay Transactions, (vol. iii.,) the earliest and most important addition made o the traditionary Life of Mahome*. I an inclmw!
those of his wife, his servant, his pupil, and his friend;" since he presented himself as a prophet to those who wet* most conversant with his infirmities as a man. Yet Cadijah believed the words, and cherished the glory, of her husband; the oosequious 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 honors, 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 Ma hornet 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 burden? Who among you will be my companion and my vizier 2""' No answer was returned, till the silence of astonishment, and doubt, and contempt, was at length broken by the impatient courage of Ali, a youth in the fourteenth year of his age.
1,1 After the Greeks, Prideaux (p. 8) discloses the secret doubts of 'he wife of Mahomet. As if he had been a privy counsellor of the prophet, Boulainvilliers (p. 272, &c.) unfolds the sublime and patriotic r.sws of Cadijah and the first disciples.
11 Vezirus, portitor, bajulus, onus ferens; and this plebeian name ras transferred by an apt metaphor to the pillars of the state, (Gag >ier, Not. ad Abulfed. p. 19.) I endeavor to preserve the Arabian idiom, as far as I can feel it myself in a Latin or French translation.
to think Colonel Vans Kennedy's appreciation of the prophet's character, wlvch may be overlooked in a criticism on Voltaire's Mahomet, the mcsn •us* which I have ever read. The work of Dr. Weil appears to me mom valuable in its dissection and chronological view of the Koran.— M. \%i\
*0 prophet, I am the man: whosoever rises against thee, I will dash out his teeth, tear out his eyes, break his legs, rip ap his belly. O prophet, I will be thy vizier over them." Mahomet accepted his offer with transport, and Abu Taled was ironically exhorted to respect the superior d'gnity of his son. In a more serious tone, the father of Ali advised his nephew to relinquish his impracticable design. "Spare youi remonstrances," replied the intrepid fanatic to his uncle and benefnctor; "if they should place the sun on my right hand and the moon on my left, they should not divert me from Iuj 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 eighty-three men and eighteen women, who retired to .^Ethiopia 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 signalized 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, 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 idolaters of Ad and Thamud, whom the divine justice had swept away from the face of the earth.11*
1,4 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.
1,6 See the Koran, (passim, and especially c. 7, p. 123, 124, Ac.,) acd the tradition of the Arabs, (Pocock, Specimen, p. 35—37.) Th« e»verns of the tribe of Thamud, fit for men of the ordinary stature, W«re shown in the midway between Medina and Damascus, (Abulfad
The people of Mecca were hardened in their unbelief b? superstition and envy. The elders of the city, the uncles of the prophet, affected to despise the presumption of an orphaD, the reformer of his country: the pious orations of Mahomet in the Caaba were answered by the clamors of Abu Taleb. "Citizens and pilgrims, listen not to the tempter, hearken not to his impious novelties. Stand fast in the worship of A\ Lkta and Al Uzzah." Yet the son of Abdallah was ever dear to tha 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 preeminence of the family of Hashem. Their malice was colored with the pretence of religion: in the age of Job, the crime of impiety was punished by the Arabian magistrate;118 and Mahomet was guilty of deserting and denying the national deities. But so loose was the policy of Mecca, that the leaders of the Koreish, instead of accusing a criminal, were compelled to employ the measures of persuasion or violence. They repeatedly addressed Abu Taleb in the style of reproach and menace. "Thy nephew reviles our religion; he accuses our wise forefathers of ignorance and folly; silence him quickly, lest he kindle tumult and discord in the city. If he persevere, we shall draw our swords against him and his adherents, and thou wilt be responsible for the blood of thy fellow-citizens." The weight and moderation of Abu Taleb eluded the violence of religious faction; the most helpless or timid of the disciples retired to Ethiopia, and the prophet withdrew himself to various places of strength in the town and country. As he was still supported by his family, the rest of the tribe of Koreish engaged themselves to renounce all intercourse with the children of Hashem, neither to buy nor sell, neither to marry nor to give in marriage, but to pursue them with implacable enmity, till they should deliver the person of Mahomet to the justice of the gods. The decree was suspended in the Caaba before
Arabiae Descript. p. 43, 44,) and may be probably ascribed to the Throglodytes of the primitive world, (Michaelis, ad Lowth de Poesi Hebrscor. p. 131—134. Recherches sur lea Egyptiens, torn. ii. p. 48, .fee.)
116 In the lime of Job, the crime of impiety was punished by the Arabian magistrate, (c. 21, v. 26, 27, 28.) I blush for a respectable prelate (de Poesi Hebraeorum, p. 650, 651, edit. Michaelis; .aid letter of a late professor in the university of Oxford, p. 15—53.^ who jiwu 8« »nd applauds this patriarchal inquisition.