« AnteriorContinuar »
palm, so necessary to the sustenance of men and animals residing under the influence of a burning sun." P. 3.
This was in the early stage of his career. In the latest, on his death-bed, at the moment that a man's character is most truly seen, one of his injunctions to his attendant adherents was “to extirpate from the Arabian peninsula the errors of polytheism, and those impious doctrines which presumed to assign associates, or rather rivals in glory, to the Creator of the universe." An injunction to “ extirpate an error" was readily understood in the Arabian dialectics of that day ; their practical polemics soon furnished them with arguments all-potent to silence the opposition of their heretical antagonists.
In a desperate conflict that took place near Mutah, in consequence of the insult offered to Mahommed, as already noticed, in the person of his messenger, the emperor Heraclius is said to have lost no less than a hundred thousand Syrian and Roman troops, who shamefully abandoned the field to an almost incredible disparity of numbers; having been opposed by only three thousand of those “ bold and energetic enthusiasts, in whose hearts the fear of death had been in a great measure obliterated by the prospective glories and rewards of martyrdom.”
In elucidation of the following extract referring to the battle, it may be necessary to premise that
“Zeid, the general of the Moslems, boldly advancing the standard of Mahommed, was among the first that fell. He was succeeded in the post of danger and command by Jauffer, the son of Abûtâleb, the prophet's cousin, and the brother of his favourite son-inlaw and earliest proselyte (Ally). This brave chief having lost both his arms, and continuing notwithstanding to bear the sacred standard in his bosom, also fell covered with wounds."
“On this occasion, we are seriously told by the Mahommedan writers, that Providence interposed to annihilate the distance between Mutah and Medeinah, in order to bring the occurrences of the field of battle under the immediate view of the prophet. In other words, on a curtain or sheet which he caused to be extended before him, Mahommed pretended to observe the progress of the action, the casualties of which he recited, in the order in which they occurred, to his companions on the spot, three days before any intelligence of the victory was supposed to have reached Medeinah. The exertions of Khaled were considered as so far sur. passing the ordinary energies of human prowess, that he received from the prophet the appellation of Seyf Ullah, or Sword of God, which he ever afterwards retained. And to console the afflicted relatives of his kinsman Jauffer, he represented that, in Paradise, in exchange for the arms he had lost, he had been furnished with
a pair of wings, resplendent with the blushing glories of the ruby, and with which he was become the inseparable companion of the archangel Gabriel, in his volitations through the regions of eternal bliss. Hence, in the catalogue of martyrs, he has been denominated Jauffer teyaur, the winged Jauffer. But it would be endless to enumerate the fictions imposed by this extraordinary man on the credulity of his followers."
P. 5. The progress of this campaign is detailed in an interesting and pleasing style. Its successful result, with other instigations, urged Mahommed to a second enterprise, notwithstanding a season of scarcity, in the same quarter.
“The prophet was not to be dissuaded from his resolution by any consideration, and he accordingly summoned his associates to aid him in the equipment of the expedition, and in the relief of those distresses under which the poorer orders of their fellow citizens were then suffering. The meek and unassuming Abû Bukker set the example of liberality, by consigning the whole of his property to support the expedition; Omar contributed the moiety of his possessions; and Othman gave three hundred camels completely equipped, and a thousand pieces of gold. Others subscribed in proportion, and not a few of the women made a sacrifice of their jewels, to bear a part in the expenses of the war." P.T.
It is not disagreeable to record these instances of generous patriotism, however ill-directed the views they were intended to promote. Mahommed was thus enabled to equip a very formidable force, with which he marched from Medeinah towards the Syrian frontier: but he was destined at the very outset to experience the most mortifying defection among his followers: his friends the Jews were among the foremost to set the example.
“ To their crafty insinuations," we are informed in a preceding page, “this second enterprise has been ascribed. They urged him to the conquest of Syria as an argument of the truth of his divine mission, which could not, they said, be more powerfully evinced than by its manifestation in the peculiar land of prophecy, and the destined scene on which were to be displayed the awful terrors of final judgment." P. 6.
Hence, perhaps, may be discovered one, and an early cause, of the bitter enmity that Mahommed uniformly exhibited against the unhappy Israelites.
The succeeding stages furnished him with a recurrence of the same mortifications; his troops, ill seconding the patriotic zeal manifested by the citizens of Medeinah, abandoned him in whole divisions. This he affected to make light of, with an observation that strongly exhibits his aptitude and prompt
ness in resource.-"Had there,” said he,“ been but a particle of virtue in the composition of these wretched deserters, their destiny would unquestionably have led them to share in my fortunes.” P. 8.
Among the earliest and most virtuous of the converts and adherents of Mahommed, is to be named the venerated Abu Bekr, his father-in-law, and immediate successor in the supremacy both pontifical and civil. The interesting events of his reign are comprised in the second chapter of the Retrospect, towards the conclusion of which the following passages occur descriptive of his character and latter hours.
“After thus providing, to the best of his judgment, for the prosperity and repose of his government, Abû Bukker devoted the fleeting remains of life to considerations of a more domestic nature, Meek and modest, pious and humble beyond his cotemporaries, the first of the successors of Mahommed, in his vest of woollen, had but few private arrangements to embarrass his last moments. He only requested that his daughter Ayaishah would be responsible for the payment of the very trifling debt of a few dirhems, which he expressed his anxiety to discharge. He then desired that when the awful event should have taken place, from which no created being was exempted, his body should be conveyed to the entrance of the prophet's sepulchre; and if his hope to be laid by the side of his master were favourably received, its gates would be thrown spontaneously open.
“ Without descending to a particular enumeration of that catalogue of virtues, which are recorded to have adorned the character of this prince; and which the illustrious Ally, in a species of funeral oration, addressed to the assembled chiefs of Medeinah, sealed by an affirmation, that after the death of their legislator, the community of Islàm would, perhaps, never have to deplore a greater calamity than the loss of that man, of whose mild and pacific virtues the hand of death had then deprived them,' it will be sufficient to observe, that, however in points of doctrine otherwise hostile, all nations and sects of Mahommedans appear, in this respect, to have discarded all difference of opinion; and to have united in consecrating the memory of Abû Bukker in the general esteem and perpetual veneration of his country.” P. 58.
Ayaishah, the turbulent and ambitious daughter of this meek and pious prince, was the only virgin espoused by Mahommed; and hence, as insufficiently noticed by Major Price, the change in her father's name. He is very seldom called by any other than Father of the virgin. Mahommed's other wives were widows; and taken by him, apparently, from considerations of their wealth and influence in furtherance of his ambitious projects. Notwithstanding the seditious and undignified features in the character and conduct of this ex
traordinary woman, and the odium attached to her memory, the appellation by which she is usually designated is mother of the faithful : not, however, as it might seem on a cursory perusal of an eastern history, exclusively; for that appellation is extended to the other prolific wives of the prophet; but as their names are seldom mentioned or alluded to, the daring and obtrusive Ayaishah appears to monopolize that respectful title.
Fatimah, the offspring of the father and mother of the faithful, was espoused by Ally; by which connexion, through their sons Hussein and Husseyne who were massacred at Kerbela, hath proceeded the race of Seveds, or descendants of Mahommed. "The word seems to have been formerly equivalent to Prince, but has now no such meaning. The Seyeds are, however, still respected as such in all Mahommedan countries; and generally distinguish themselves by green vestments, or a turban at least of that colour, deemed sacred to the prophet, as having been sanctified by his predilection and adoption. But very different is the estimation in which the character of their uterine progenitor is held ; for whatever deference might naturally have been extended by his zealous followers to the person who stood in so tender a relationship with their prophet, had her conduct admitted of such extension, she lived a disreputable tool of the turbulent, and sunk disgracefully in her career of sedition. Thus the author, in concluding the narrative of the busy and interesting scenes in which she was so conspicuous, and in describing her appropriate death, remarks that“ Ayaishah, having rendered herself odious to all parties, appears to have thus ultimately perished without the regret of any.” P. 386.
Respecting the characters of Oinar and Osman, the successors of Abu-Bekr, the history of whose reigns occupies the third, fourth and fifth chapters of the Retrospect, we will endeavour to find room for some extracts.
“ To the prudence of Oinar, or rather his singular talent for discernment, the prophet bore ample testimony when he bestowed upon him the appellative of Faurûk auzem, * 'the great discriminator;' (between truth and falsehood;) and of his other virtues, if we inay be permitted to form an opinion from the eulogium pro nounced over his remains, by the competitor of his views on the sovereignty, the brave and liberal-minded Ally, the memorial would be abundantly flattering. In this he is made to affirm, that Omar was the person, the record of whose actions, and whose appearance
* “ He severed from his body the head of a Muhom medan, who, in a dispute with an Israelite, refused to abide by the decision of the prophet. Vide Sale's excellent trauslation of the Koran. Vol. I. p. 168."
in the presence of his Creator, he wished his own to resemble : neither could he doubt, as they were inseparable in this world, that he should be again united to the favourite of Omnipotence, and the friend of his bosom the faithful Abû Bukker, in the mansions of eternal bliss.
“ In short, apart from the lust of foreign conquest and usurpation, in which, unfortunately for mankind, he had too many examples to imitate, and to which he was, perhaps, gradually impelled by circumstances acting upon an intemperate zeal to promote the imposture in which he was engaged, the character assigned him, even by the historians of an adverse party, may in some respects justify us in considering the second successor of Mahommed, among those princes who, by an impartial distribution of justice, a rigid and prudent economy, and an inflexible integrity in the application of the resources of the state, have added substantial glory to the deceitful splendours which have been too frequently found to decorate the insignia of royal authority.
“We have already observed that Omar was the first that assumed the title of Ameir ul Moûmenein, the prince or commander of the faithful. He was also the first who adjudged the punishment of eighty lashes to such as disregarded the prohibition against wine; and he set the example, in which he was generally imitated by his successors, of perambulating the streets in disguise, to discover the temper and manners of his people. According to his request, he was buried in the chapel of Ayaishah by the side of Abû Bukker.” P. 146.
After a reign of a little more than ten years, Omar, while in the performance of his religious duties in the public mosque of Medeinah, received a mortal wound from the dagger of a Christian slave named Abû Lûlû, whose memory is hence deservedly execrated by the Sûnnihs, or tribe of Omar. But, in the true spirit of sectarian illiberality, the adverse party, the Sheiahs, or adherents of Ally, extol the act, and have digo nified the villain its perpetrator with the name of Shuja-ud-dein, the hero of the faith : though by no one more than by the generous leader whose memory is thus disgraced by his partisans, would such an act have been duly reprobated.
The puissant empire of the Khalifs attained, under the reign of Omar, pretty nearly to those limits which, in actual sovereignty at least, it doth not appear to have exceeded in any period of its history. Not, however, as is remarked by the author in the review which he takes of this vast boundary, that the countries within it were yet in any permanent state of security.
“ The great provinse Khorassaun was not finally subjugated until the reign of Othm i and many formidable insurrections in different parts of the Pers in territory, evinced, on a variety of occasions, that abhorrence of foreign dominion, and regard for the