Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

ance 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 temporal 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 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 :m the whole was faithfully collected in one common mass: a fifth of the gold and silver, the prisoners and cattle, the movables and immovables, was reserved by the prophet for pious and charitable uses; the remainder was shared in adequate por tions 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 license of

12S 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, Hhree shields, and two helmets, (Gagnier, torn. iii. p. 328—334,) with a large white standard, a black banner, (p. 385,) twonty horses, (p. 322, <fec.) Two of his mar tial sayings are recorded by tradition, (Gagnier, torn. ii. p. 88, 334.)

'" The whole subject de jure belli Mohammedanorum is exhausted ■c a separate dissertation by the learned Reland, (Dissertationes MiaMilanese, torn. iii. Dissertat. x. p. 3—53.)

* The editor's opinions on '.his subject may be read in ihe History of \bt 10WM vol. i. p. 137.—M

embracing the female captives as their wives or concubmca, 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 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: ;it 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 at: 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.18'

Perhaps the Koreish would have been content with the flight of Mahomet, had they not been provoked and alarmed by the vengeance of an enemy, who could intercept theii 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 his return. He despatched a messenger to his brethren of Mecca, and they were roused, by the fear of losing their merchandise and iheir provisions, unless they hastened to his relief with the military force of the city. The sacred band of Mahomet was

'" Tke doctrine of absolute predestination, on which few religions J&n reproach each other, is sternly exposed in the Koran, (c. 3, p. 52, 83, c. 4, p. 70, Ac, with the notes of Sale, and c. 17, p. 413, with those of Maracci.) Reland (de Relig. Moham. p. 61—64) and Sale (Prelim Discourse, p. 103) represent the opinions of the doctors, and oui EHKlern travellers the confidence, the fading confidence, of the Tjirka formed of three hundred and thirteen Moslems, of whon: 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.1" In the fertile and famous vale of Beder,1*' 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. "0 God," he exclaimed, as the numbers of the Koreish descended from the hills, "0 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,130 and instantly demanded the succor of Gabriel and three thousand angels. His eye was fixed on the field of battle: the Mussulmans fainted and were pressed: in that decisive moment the prophet started from his throne, mounted his horse, and cast a handful of sand into the air:

,M Al Jannabi (apud Gagnier, torn. 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 Mussulmans, in the field of Ohud, had no more than two horses, according to the better sense of Abulfeda, (in Vit. Moham. c. xxxi p. 65.) In the Stony province, the camels were numerous; but the horse appears to have been less numerous than in the Happy or the Desert Arabia.

129 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, &r.. Shaw's Travels, p. 477.

1SP The place to which Mahomet retired during the action is styled by Gagnier (in Abulfeda, c. 27, p. 58. Vie de Mahomet, torn. ii. p. 30, 3?) Umbraculum, une loge de bois avec une porte. The same Aiabio word is rendered by Reiske (Annales Moslemici Abulfeda, p. 23) by isolium. Suggestus cditior; and the difference is of the utmost moment for the honor both of the interpreter and of the hero. I am sorry to observe the pride and acrimony with which Reiske chastises his fellowlaborer. Saepi sic vertit, m integrce paginse nequeant nisi un» liturS corrigi Arabice non satis callebat, et carebat judicio critico. J. J. Reiske, Prodidagmata ad Hagji Ohalisae Tabulas, p. 228, ad calceiw A.bulfed» Syria Tabula; Lipsiae, 1766, in 4to.

"Let their faces be covered with confusiou." Both armiei heard the thunder of his voice: their fancy beheld th« angelic warriors :131 the Koreish trembled and fled: seventj of the bravest were slain; and seventy captives adorned th« first victory of the faithful. The dead bodies of the Koreisk were despoiled and insulted: two of the most obnoxious prisoners were punished with death ; and the ransom of the others, four thousand drams of silver, compensated in some degree the escape of the caravan. But it was in vain that the camels of Abu Sophian explored a new road through the desert and along the Euphrates: they were overtaken by the diligence of the Mussulmans; and wealthy must have been the prize, if twenty thousand drams could be set apart for the fifth of the apostle. The resentment of the public and private loss stimulated Abu Sophian to collect a body of three thousand men, seven hundred of whom were armed with cuirasses, and two hundred were mounted on horseback; three thousand camels attended his march; and his wife Henda, with fifteen matrons of Mecca, incessantly sounded their timbrels to animate the troops, and to magnify the greatness of Hobal, the most popular deity of the Caaba. The standard of God and Mahomet was upheld by nine hundred and fifty believers: the disproportion of numbers was not more alarming than in the field of Beder; and their presumption of victory prevailed against the divine and human sense of the apostle. The second battle was fought on Mount Ohud, six miles to the north of Medina;132 the Koreish advanced in the form of a crescent; and the right wing of cavalry was led by Caled, the fiercest and most Successful of the Arabian warriors. The troops of Mahomet were skilfully posted on the declivity of the hill; and their rear was guarded by a detachment of fifty archers. The weight of their charge impelled and broke the centre of the idolaters: but in the pursuit they lost the advantage of their ground: the archers deserted their station: tk> Mussulmans were tempted by the spoil, disobeyed their gen

1,1 The loose expressions of the Koran (c. 3, p. 124, 125, c. 8, p. 9) allow the commentators to fluctuate beween the numbers of 100G, 8000, or 9000 angels; and the smallest of these might suffice for the slaughter of seventy of the Koreish, (Maracci, Alcoran, torn. ii. p. 181.) Yet the same scholiasts confess that this angelic band was not visible to any mortal eye, (Maracci, p. 297.) They refine on the words (c. 8, 16) "not thou, but God," Ac. (D'Herbelot. Bibliot. Orientale p. 60Q Ml.)

'" Geograph. Nubiensia, p. 47.

eral, and disordered their ranks. The intrepid Caled, wheet ing bis cavalry on their flank and rear, exclaimed, with a loud voice, that Mahomet was slain. He was indeed woundV. in

the face with a javelin: two of his teeth were shattered with

a stone ; yet, in the midst of tumult and dismay, he reproached the infidels with the murder of a prophet; and blessed the friendly hand that stanched his blood, and conveyed him to 3 pltwe of safety Seventy martyrs died for the sins of the people; they fe 1, said the apostle, in pairs, each brother embracing his lifeless companion ;13S their bodies were mangled by the inhuman females of Mecca; and the wife of Abu Sophiiin tasted the entrails of Hamza, the uncle of Mahomet. They might applaud their superstition, and satiate their fury; but the Mussulmans soon rallied in the field, and the Koreish wanted strength or courage to undertake the siege of Medina. It was attacked the ensuing year by an army of ten thousand enemies; and this third expedition is variously named from the nations, which marched under the banner of Abu Sophian, from the ditch which was drawn before the city, and a camp of three thousand Mussulmans. The prudence of Mahomet declined a general engagement: the valor of Ali was sig nalized in single combat; and the war was protracted twenty days, till the final separation of the confederates. A tempest of wind, rain, and hail, overturned their tents: their private quarrels were fomented by an insidious adversary; and the Koreish, deserted by their allies, no longer hoped to subvert the throne, or to check the conquests, of their invincible ex ile.,M

The choice of Jerusalem for the first kebla of prayer discovers the early propensity of Mahomet in favor of the Jews; and happy would it have been for their temporal in

183 In the iiid chapter of the Koran, (p. 50—53, with Sale's notes, the prophet alleges some poor excuses for the defeat of Ohud.*

"* For the detail of the three Koreish wars, of Beder, of Ohud, and cf the ditch, peruse Abulfeda, (p. 56—61', 64—69, 73—77,) Gagnier O-m. i. p. 23—45, 70—96, 120—139,) with the proper articles of D'Heroelot, and the abridgments of Elmacin (Hist, Saracen, p. 6, 1) and Abulpharagius, (Dynast, p. 102.)

* Dr Weil has added some curious circumstances, which he gives as on p.md traditional authority, on the rescue of Mahomet. The prophet wu attacked by Ubeijj Ibn Challaf, whom he struck on the neck with a mortal woutid. This was the only time, it is added, that Mahomet peroouaJta «nfta?ed in battle, (p. 128.)—M. 1845.

r

« ForrigeFortsett »