Caaba; a square chapel, twenty-four cubits long, twenty-three broad, and twenty-seven high: a door and a window admit the light; the double roof is supported by three pillars of wood; a spout (now of gold) discharges the rain-water, and the well Zemzen is protected by a dome from accidental pollution. The tribe of Koreish, by fraud and force, had acquired the custody of the Caaba: the sacerdotal office devolved through four lineal descents to the grandfather of Mahomet; and the family of the Hashemites, from whence he sprung, was the most respectable and sacred in the eyes of their country.48 The precincts of Mecca enjoyed the rights of sanctuary; and, in the last month of each year, the city and the temple were crowded with a long train of pilgrims, who presented their vows and offerings in the house of God. The same rites which are now accomplished by the faithful Mussulman, were invented and practised by the superstition of the idolaters. At an awful distance they cast away their garments: seven times, with hasty steps, they encircled the Caaba, and kissed the black stone: seven times they visited and adored the adjacent mountains; seven times they threw stones into the valley of Mina; and the pilgrimage was achieved, as at the present hour, by a sacrifice of sheep and camels, and the burial of their hair and nails in the consecrated ground. Each tribe either found or introduced in the Caaba their domestic worship: the temple was adorned, or defiled, with three hundred and sixty idols of men, eagles, lions, and antelopes; and most conspicuous was the statue of Hebal, of red agate, holding in his hand seven arrows, without heads or feathers, the instruments and symbols of profane divination. But this statue was a monument of Syrian arts: the devotion of the ruder ages was content with a pillar or a tablet; and the rocks of the desert were hewn into gods or altars, in imitation of the black stone49 of Mecca, which is

[ocr errors]

deeply tainted with the reproach of an idolatrotu origin. From Japan to Peru, the use of sacrifice has universally prevailed; and the votary has expressed his gratitude, or fear by destroying or consuming, in honor of the gods, the dearest and most precious of their gifts. The life of a man*4 is the most precious oblation to deprecate a public calamity: the altar.i of Phoenicia and Egypt, of Rome and Carthage, have been polluted with human gore: the cruel practice was long preserved amOu&* the Arabs; in the third century, a boy was annually sacrificed by the tribe of the Duinatians;" and a royal captive was piously slaughtered by the prince of the Saracens, the ally and soldier of the emperor Justinian." A parent who drags his son to the altar, exhibits the most painful and sublime effort of fanaticism: the deed, or the intention, was sanctified by the example of saints and heroes; and the father of Mahomet himself was devoted by a rash vow, and hardly ransomed for the equivalent of a hundred camels. Tn the time of ignorance, the Arabs, like the Jews and Egyptians, abstained from the taste of swine's flesh;" they

Reiske;) and the reproach is furiously reechoed by the Christians, (Clemens Alex, in Protreptico, p. 40. Arnobius contra Gentes, 1. vi. p. 246.) Yet these stones were no other than the 0airv\a of Syria and Greece, so renowned in sacred and profane antiquity, (Euseb. Praep. Evangel. 1. i. p. 37. Marsham, Canon. Chron. p. 54—56.)

60 The two horrid subjects of 'A.»6p -Oval i and tliutaBvirta are accu rately discussed by the learned Sir John Marsham, (Canon. Chron. p. 76—78, 301—304.) Sanchoniatho derives the Phoenician sacrifices from the example of Chronus; but we are ignorant whether Chronus lived before, or after, Abraham, or indeed whether he lived at all.

51 Kar' irds inaarov ntuSa £8vov, is the reproach of Porphyry; but he likewise imputes to the Roman the same barbarous custom, which, A. 17. C. 657, had been finally abolished. Dumaetha, Daumat al Gendai. is noticed by Ptolemy (Tabul. p. 37, Arabia, p. 9—29) and Abulfeda, (p. 57,) and may be found in D'Anville's maps, in the mid-desert between Chaibar and Tadmor.

"Prcoopius, (de Bell. Persico, 1. i. c. 28,) Evagrius, (1. vi. c. 21,) •md Pocock. (Specimen, p. 72, 86,) attest the human sacrifices of the Arabs in the vith century. The ganger and escape of Abdallah is * tradition rather than a fact, (Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, torn. i. p. 82 --84.)

'' Suillis carnibus abstinent, says Solinus, (Polyhistor. c. 33,) who Pliny (1. viii. c. 68) in the strange supposition, that hogs can ant live in Arabia. The Egyptians were actuated by a natural and superstitious horror for that unclean beast, (Mars! im, Canon, p. 205.) Tlit old Arabians likewise practiaed, pout coitum, the rite of ablution (Herodnt. L L c. 80,) which is sanctified by the Mahometan lav

Circinicised ** their children at the age of puberty: the same customs, without the censure or the precept of the Koran, have been silently transmitted to their posterity and proselytes. It has been sagaciously conjectured, that the artful legislator indulged the stubborn prejudices of his countrymen. It is more simple to believe that he adhered to the habits and opin ions of his youth, without foreseeing that a practice congenial to the climate of Mecca might become useless or inconvenient on the banks of the Danube or the Volga.

Arabia was free: the adjacent kingdom? were shaken by the storms of conquest and tyranny, and the persecuted sects fled to the happy land where they might profess what they thought, and practise what they professed. The religions of the Sabians and Magians, of the Jews and Christians, were disseminated from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea. In a remote period of antiquity, Sabianism was diffused over Asia by the science of the Chaldeans" and the arms of the Assyrians. From the observations of two thousand years, the priests and astronomers of Babylon" deduced the eternal laws of nature and providence. They adored the seven gods or angels, who directed the course of the seven planets, and shed their irresistible influence on the earth. The attributes of the seven planets, with the twelve signs of the zodiac, and the twenty-four constellations of the northern and southern hemisphere, were represented by images and talismans; the seven days of the week were dedicated to their respective deities; the Sabians prayed thrice each day; and the temple of the moon at Haran was

(Reland, p. 75, etc., Chardin, or rather the Mollahoi Shah Abbas, torn. IV. p. 71, Ac.)

64 The Mahometan doctors are not fond of the subject; yet they hold circumcision necessary to salvation, and even pretend that Ma hornet was miraculously born without a foreskin, (Pocock, Specimen, p 319, 320. Sale's Preliminary Discourse, p. 106. 107.)

64 Diodorus Siculus (torn. i. 1. ii. p. 142—145) has cast on their religion the curious but superficial glance of a Greek. Their astronomy would be far more valuable: they had looked through the telescope of reason, since they could doubt whether the sun were in the number of the planets or of the fixed stars.

48 Simplicius, (who quotes Porphyry,) de Ccelo, 1. ii. com. xlvi

L123, lin. 18, apud Marsham, Canon. Chron. p. 471, who doubts tie t, because it is adverse to his systems. The earliest date of th* Chaldaean observations is the year 2234 before Christ. After the Cog quest of Babylon by Alexander, they were communicated it, the r* quest of Aristotle, to the astronomer Hipparcbus. What a mom* in the annals of science 1

the term of their pilgrimage." But the flexible genius of their faith was always ready either to teach or to learn: in the tradition of the creation, the deluge, and the patriarchs. they held a singular agreement with thi ir Jewish captives; they appealed to the secret books of Adam, Seth, and Enoch; »nd a slight infusion of the gospel has transformed the last remnant of the Polytheists into the Christians of St. John, in the territory of Bassora.68 The altars of Babylon were overturned by the Magians; but the injuries of the Sab'ans were revenged by the sword of Alexander; Persia groaned above 6ve hundred years under a foreign yoke; and the purest disciples of Zoroaster escaped from the contagion of idolatry, and breathed with their adversaries the freedom of the des ert.** Seven hundred years before the death of Mahomet, the Jews were settled in Arabia; and .* far greater multitude was expelled from the Holy Land in the wars of Titus and Hadrian. The industrious exiles aspired to liberty and power: they erected synagogues in the cities, and castles in the wilderness, and their Gentile converts were confounded with the children of Israel, whom they resembled in the outward mark of circumcision. The Christian missionaries were still more active and successful: the Catholics asserted their universal reign; the sects whom they oppressed, successively retired beyond the limits of the Roman empire; the Marcionites and Manichaeans dispersed their fantastic opinions and apocryphal gospels; the churches of Yemen, and the princes of Hira and

67 Pocock, (Specimen, p. 138—146,) Hottingei, (Hist. Orient, p. 162 —203,) Hyde, (de Religione Vet. Persarum, p. ,24, 128, Ac.,) D'Her belot, (Sabi, p. 725, 726,) and Sale, (Preliminary Discourse, p. 14, 15,) rather excite than gratify our curiosity; and the last of these writers confounds Sabianism with the primitive religion f the Arabs.

D8 D'Anville (l'Euphrate et le Tigre, p. 130—"j 31) will fix the position of these ambiguous Christians: Assemani us (Bibliot. Oriental torn. iv. p. 607—614) may explain their tenets. But it is a slipperj task lo ascertain the creed of an ignorant people afraid and ashamed to disclose their secret traditions.*

69 The Magi were fixed in the province of B hrein, (Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, torn. iii. p. 114,) and mingled with the old Arabians, (Pocock, Specimen, p. 146—150.)

* The Codex Nasiraeus, their sacred book, has been published by Nort«jrg whose researches contain almost all that is known of tin's singular pecple, But their origin is almost as obscure as ever: if ancient, their creed Iim been so corrupted with mysticism and Mahoraetunism. that its native line* n&ents are very indistinct.—M.

(Jassan, were instructed in a purer creed by the Jacobite and Neatorian bishops.40 The liberty of choice was presented to the tribes: eacli Arab was free to elect or to compose his private religion: and the jade superstition of his house was jaingled with the sublime theology of saints and philosophers. \ fundamental article of faith was inculcated by the consent )f the learned strangers; the existence of one supreme Go-.1 »rho is exalted above the powers of heaven and earth, but who aas often revealed himself tc mankind by the ministry of h*U angels and prophets, and whoso grace or justice has interrupted. ay seasonable miracles, the order of nature. The most rational of the Arabs acknowledged his power, though they neglected his worship;61 and it was habit rather than conviction that still attached them to the relics of idolatry. The Jews and Christians were the people of the Book; the Bible was already translated into the Arabic language," and the volume of the Old Testament was accepted by the concord of these implacable enemies. In the story of the Hebrew patriarchs, the Arabs were pleased to discover the fathers of their nation. They applauded the birth and promises of Ismael; revered the faith and virtue of Abraham; traced his pedigree and their own to the creation of the first man, and imbibed, with equal credulity, the prodigies of the holy text, and the dreams and traditions of the Jewish rabbis.

The base and plebeian origin of Mahomet is an unskilful calumny of the Christians,83 who exalt instead of degrading

60 The state of the Jews and Christians in Arabia is described by Pccock from Sharestani, Ac., (Specimen, p. 60, 184, <fcc.,) Hottinger, (Hist. Orient, p. 212—238,) D'Herbelot, (Bibliot. Orient, p. 474—476,) Basnage, (Hist, des Juifs, torn. vii. p. 185, torn. viii. p. 280,) and Sale, (Preliminary Discourse, p. 22, &c, 33, <fcc.)

61 In their offerings, it was a maxim to defraud God for the profit of the idol, not a more potent, but a more irritable, patron, (Pocock Specimen, p. 108, 109.)

62 Our version-! now extant, whether Jewish or Christian, appear more recent than the Koran; but the existence of a prior translation may be fairly inferred,—1. From the perpetual practice of tlm Fynagogue of expounding the Hebrew lesson by a paraphrase in the vulgar tongue of the country; 2. From the analogy of the Armenian, Persian, iEthiopic versions, expressly quoted by the fathers of the fiftL century, who assert that the Scriptures were translated into all the Barbaric languages, (Walton, Prolegomena ad Biblia Polyglot, p. 84. 98—97. Simon, Hist. Critique du V. et du N. Testament, torn. L p. 180, 181, 282—286, 293, 305, 306, torn. iv. p. £36.)

•* In eo conveniunt omnes, ut plebeio vilique genere ortum, Ac,

« ForrigeFortsett »