1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mahomet
MAHOMET (strictly MUḤAMMAD, commonly also Mohammed), founder of the religious system called in Europe after him Mahommedanism, and by himself Islam or Ḥanifism. He died, according to the ordinary synchronism, on the 7th of June 632 (12 Rabia, A.H. 11), and his birthday was exactly sixty-three or sixty-five years earlier, the latter number being evidently an interpretation in lunar years of a number thought to refer to solar years. The lunar system was introduced into Arabia by Mahomet himself quite at the close of his career; that which existed before was certainly solar, as it involved a process of intercalation—which, however, seems to have been arbitrarily manipulated by priests, whence certain synchronisms cannot be got for the events in the Prophet’s career. The number 63 for the years of his life may rest on tradition, though it is unlikely that such matters were accurately noted; it can also be accounted for by a priori combination. A Meccan, it is said, became a full citizen at the age of 40; this then would be the age at which the mission might be started. The Medina period (of which count was kept) lasted ten to eleven years; for the Meccan period ten years would seem a likely length. Finally it was known that for some years—about three—the mission had been conducted secretly. The only event in contemporary history to which the Koran alludes in its earlier parts is the Persian conquest of Palestine in 616. Clearly Mahomet had begun to prophesy at that date.
Before the rise of Islam, Mahomet’s native place, Mecca, appears to figure nowhere in historical records, unless there be a reference to it in the “valley of Baca” (Psalm lxxxiv. 6). Its sacred, and therefore archaic, name is Bakkah; hence the identification His Country.of the name with that of the sanctuary Makoraba, known to the Greek geographers, is not philologically tenable; although so eminent a linguist as Dozy evolved a theory of the origin of the city from this name, which appears to be South Arabian for “sanctuary,” and has no connexion with Hebrew (as Dozy supposed). In the 3rd century of Islam the mythology of Mecca was collected and published in book form, but we learn little more from it than names of tribes and places; it is clear that there was no record of the mode in which the community inhabiting the place had got there, and that little was remembered with accuracy of the events which preceded the rise of its prophet. The city had a sanctuary, called the Cube (kaʽba), of which the nucleus was the “Black Stone,” probably to be identified with Allah, the god of the community; both still exist, or rather their legitimate substitutes, as the Ka‛ba has been repeatedly reconstructed, and the original Black Stone was stolen by the Carmathians in the 4th century of Islam; they afterwards returned one, but it may or may not have been the same as that which they removed. At some time in the 6th century—said to have been the birth-year of the Prophet, but really much earlier—an Abyssinian invader raided Mecca with the view of abolishing this sanctuary; but for some reason had to desist. This expedition, known as the “Raid of the Elephant,” one of these animals being employed in it, seems to be of great importance for explaining the rise of Islam; for a sanctuary which can repel an invader acquires tremendous reputation. Some verses in the Koran which are perhaps not genuine, record the miracle whereby Allah repelled the “People of the Elephant.” The sanctuary was apparently in the possession of the tribe Koreish (Quraish), the origin of whose name is unknown, said to have come originally from Cutha in Mesopotamia. They were known (we are told) as the people of Allah, and, by wearing a badge, were sacrosanct throughout Arabia. If this be true, it was probably a privilege earned by the miraculous defence of the Ka‛ba, and is sufficient to account for the rise of Meccan commerce of which we hear much in the biography of the Prophet, and to which some verses of the earliest part of the Koran allude; for merchants who were safe from attacks by bandits would have an enormous advantage. The records seem, however, to be inconsistent with this assertion; and the growth of the Meccan commerce is sufficiently accounted for by the fact that after the Abyssinian invasion pilgrimage to the Ka‛ba became the practice of numerous Arab tribes, and for four months in the year (selected by Meccan priests) raiding was forbidden, in order to enable the pilgrimage to be safely made. In addition to this it would seem that all Mecca counted as sanctuary—i.e. no blood might under any circumstances be shed there. The community lived by purveying to pilgrims and the carrying trade; and both these operations led to the immigration of strangers.
There seems to be no doubt that Mahomet was himself a member of the tribe Koreish, and indeed too many of his relatives figure in history to permit of his parentage being questioned. His cousin ʽAli, fourth caliph, was the son of Abū Ṭālib, whose name attests the Mahomet’s Family.historical character of the kindred name ʽAbd al-Moṭṭalib, Mahomet’s grandfather: for the fact that this name is in part enigmatical is certainly no argument against its genuineness. In the 3rd century of Islam a document was shown in which a man of Sanʽa in Yemen acknowledged that he had borrowed from ʽAbd al-Moṭṭalib 1000 silver dirhems of the Hudaida standard, and Allāh with the two “angels” (probably a euphemism for the goddesses Al-lāt and al-ʽUzzā) served as witness; it is difficult to see why such a document should have been forged. The name Hāshim (for ʽAbd al-Moṭṭalib’s father) may or may not be historical; here, as in the ascending line throughout, we have subjects without predicates. The name of ʽAbd al-Moṭṭalib’s son, who was Mahomet’s father, is given as ʽAbdallāh; the correctness of this has been questioned, because “Servant of Allah” would seem to be too appropriate, and the name was often given by the Prophet to converts as a substitute for some pagan appellation. This, however, is hypercritical, as the name of the father could not easily be altered, when relatives abounded, and it would seem that at one time the Prophet made no theological use of the name Allah, for which he intended to substitute Raḥmān. The name of his mother is given as Āminah, and with this one of his own titles, Amīn, agrees; although the Arabs do not appear to bring the two into connexion. Her father’s name is given as Wahb, and she is brought into relation with a Medinese tribe called the Banū ʽAdī b. al-Najjār, to whom she is said to have brought her son in his early infancy. The circumstances may have been suggested by his later connexion with that place; yet in what seems a historical narrative her grave is mentioned as known to be at Abwa, midway between the two cities, whence this early bond between the Prophet and his future home may have really existed.
His own name is given in the Koran in the forms Aḥmad and the familiar Muḥammad; in contemporary poetry we also find the form Maḥmūd. Similar variation between derivatives from the same root is found in proper names which occur in early poetry; the meaning of all would be “the praised,” if the root be given its Arabic signification—“the desired” if interpreted from the Hebrew.
The form Muḥammad (ordinarily transliterated Mohammed; Mahomet, Mehmet, &c., represent the Turkish pronunciation) is found in a pre-Islamic inscription, and appears to have been fairly common in Arabia. In Hag. ii. 7 a derivative of the Hebrew equivalent root occurs in the prophecy “and the desired of all nations shall come,” and this passage has suggested the idea that the name may have been taken by the Prophet as the equivalent of “Messiah,” while the Moslems themselves find its equivalent in the Paraclete of the Fourth Gospel, though this identification requires more ingenuity. His kunyah (i.e. the Arab title of respect, in which a man is called after his son) is Abu’l-Qāsim; other names by which he is called are titles of honour, e.g. Muṣṭafā “chosen.” (See further the genealogical table, ad fin.)
In the Koran, Allah says that He found the Prophet an orphan, poor and astray; it is possible that all these expressions should be understood figuratively, like the “poor, naked, blind” of Christian hymns; the Arabs, however, take them literally, and Mahomet is said to have been aEarly Life. posthumous child, whose mother died a few months or years after his birth, and who was brought up first by his grandfather, and then by his uncle Abū Ṭālib, one of the poorer members of the family; in the controversy between the Alid and Abbasid pretenders of the 2nd century of Islam the Abbasid Manṣūr claims that his ancestor fed the ancestor of ʽAli, i.e. Abū Ṭālib, otherwise he would have had to beg. There was evidently an apparent inconsistency between Mahomet’s being a poor orphan and the favourite grandchild of the eminent and wealthy ʽAbd al-Moṭṭalib; and it was solved in this way. There was a tradition that in his early years he was sent into the desert to acquire the habits and the language of the Bedouins; and this seems to have been attested by the Prophet himself. In a tribal fight he is said to have acted as armour-bearer to one of his uncles, Zubair. There seems no doubt that he often accompanied Meccan caravans to the countries with which the Meccans had trade relations; such especially were Syria and south Arabia, and perhaps Egypt and Mesopotamia. It is conceivable that he may have visited Abyssinia by sea. For though accurate knowledge is nowhere to be found in the Koran, it exhibits a large amount of miscellaneous information, such as a trader might well pick up. His career as a caravan-conductor appears to have terminated with his marriage to Khadīja, daughter of Khuwailid, represented by the tradition as a wealthy widow, fifteen years his senior and forty years of age at the time of the union. As she became the mother of a numerous family, a special rule was discovered by Moslem physiologists extending the child-bearing period of Korashite women beyond that of others. Since it is claimed for Mahomet that he first gave Arab women the right to inherit property, the difficulty noticed is not the only one connected with this marriage; and Robertson Smith has called attention to some others, unconnected with his theory of “marriage and kinship in early Arabia.” After his marriage Mahomet appears to have been partner in a shop in Mecca; where he apparently sold agricultural produce. His style is strongly marked by phrases and metaphors drawn from trade, though as a statesman he never displayed any financial ability.
Writing in the monumental script of South Arabia had been known for centuries in the peninsula; and shortly before the rise of Islam a cursive script—the parent of the ordinary Arabic character—had been started in the Christian state of Hira, with which the beginnings of modern Arabic Education.literature are connected. A modification of this had been introduced into Mecca, and was probably used for contracts and similar documents. The word ummī, literally “popular” or “plebeian” (according to one etymology), applied to Mahomet in the Koran, is said to mean “one who can neither read nor write,” and the most generally accepted view is that he could do neither, a supposition which enters into the doctrine of the miraculous nature of the Koran. According to another interpretation the word means “Meccan,” i.e. native of “the Mother of the Villages” (Umm al-Qura); and the most probable theory is that he could do both, but unskilfully. Indeed on one historic occasion he erased certain words in a document; and where in the Koran he rebuts the charge of “taking notes,” he does not employ the obvious retort that he could not write, but gives a far less convincing answer. For poetry, which seems to have been cultivated in Arabia long before his time, he possessed no ear; but we have little reason for supposing that either writing or versification had yet entered into Arabian education. The former would be acquired by those who needed it, the latter was regarded as a natural gift. There is reason for thinking the language of the Koran incorrect and ungrammatical in parts, but as it afterwards became the ultimate standard of classical Arabic, this point is not easy to prove. On the whole then his early life seems to have been such as was normal in the case of a man belonging to one of the more important families in a community which had not long been started on a career of prosperity.
Of the organization of that community we unfortunately know very little, though we hear of a council-chamber, and, as has been seen, of an age-qualification for admission to it. It is, however, certain that the theory of decision by majority was absolutely unknown to Social System.Mahomet’s second successor, whence we learn little from this tradition (even if it be authentic) of the mode whereby the tribes who together formed the Meccan population managed their common concerns, whether commercial or political. The form of government seems to have been a rudimentary oligarchy, directed by some masterful individual; before the Flight we read of various prominent personages, after the Flight and the battle of Badr (A.H. 2) one chieftain, Abū Sofiān (see Caliphate, ad init.), appears to take the lead whether in war or in policy. It would seem, however, that the right of independent action belonged to the individual tribes, even to the extent of refusing to take part in a campaign. For the settlement of ordinary disputes recourse was had (it appears) rather to soothsayers, near or distant, than to any regularly constituted authority or tribunal. On the other hand we are furnished with a list of officials who were concerned with different parts of the festal performances and the ordinary worship. Of these we may mention the Custodian of the Ka‘ba, and the official whose duty was siqāyah (“watering”), said to mean furnishing the pilgrims with water, but more ingeniously interpreted in recent times as “rain-bringing,” a function which even in the 2nd century of Islam the governor in some places was supposed to exercise.
Of Arabian paganism we possess no trustworthy or complete account; since we hear of no theological literature belonging to it, probably no such account could have been given. There were doubtless a variety of practices, many of which have been continued to this day in the ceremonies Beginnings of the Mission. of the pilgrimage, and offerings of different sorts to various deities, interpreted variously by the worshippers in accordance with their spiritual, intellectual and moral levels; e.g. as actual stones, or as men (or more often women) residing in the stones or otherwise connected with them, or bearing a similar relation to trees, or stars, &c. In general every tribe had its patron of the kind, and where there were aggregations of tribes, connexions were established between these deities, and affiliation-theories excogitated; hence the theory attributed in the Koran to the Meccans that the goddesses al-ʽUzzā, &c. were the daughters of Allah, may well represent the outcome of such speculation. These, however, were known to few, whereas the practices were familiar to all. Some of these were harmless, others barbarous; many offensive, but not very reprehensible, superstitions.
Before Mahomet’s time Arabian paganism had already been attacked both from the outside and from the inside. On the one hand the northern tribes had gradually been christianized, owing to the influence of the Byzantine empire; on the other hand south Arabia had fallen External Influences. successively under Jewish, Abyssinian and Persian influence; and the last, though little is known of Persian rule, is unlikely to have favoured pagan cults. Christianity had also some important representation in Najran far south of Mecca, while Jewish settlements were prospering north of Mecca in the Prophet’s future home Yathrib and its neighbourhood. Power, civilization and learning were thus associated with monotheism (Judaism), dualism (Mazdaism) and tritheism (as the Arabs interpreted Christianity); paganism was the religion of ignorance (jāhiliyyah, interpreted by Goldziher as “barbarism,” but the difference is not very considerable). Mecca itself and the neighbouring and allied Ṭāif are said to have produced some monotheists or Christians, who identified the Allah of Mecca with the Allāhā or God of the Syrian Christians, called by the Abyssinian Christians “Lord of the Regions,” and by the Jews “the Merciful” (Raḥmānā); one such is said to have been a cousin of Khadija, Mahomet’s wife; his name is given as Waraqah, son of Naufal, and he is credited with copying or translating a Gospel. We even hear of flagellant monks and persons vowed to total abstinence among the precursors of Islam.
With these persons Mahomet had little in common, since they do not appear to have claimed to enforce their views upon others, or to have interfered with politics. He appears mainly to have been struck by the personality of the founders of the systems dominant in the civilized world, and to have aspired from the first to occupy the place of legislator or mouthpiece of the Deity; and that he was this was and is the main proposition of the Mahommedan creed. The “Prophet” or “Apostle” (at different times he employed both the Jewish and the Christian phrase) was the divinely appointed dictator of his community; if he were not obeyed, divine vengeance would overtake the disobedient. At this proposition Mahomet arrived by induction from the records of the Biblical prophets, as well as others who seem to have figured in Arabian mythology, e.g. the destruction of the tribe Thamūd (mentioned by Pliny, and therefore historical) for their disobedience to their prophet Ṣāliḥ, and of ʽAd (probably mythical) for their similar treatment of Hūd. The character of the message did not affect the necessity for obedience; at times it was condemnation of some moral offence, at others a trivial order. Divine vengeance overtook those who disobeyed either.
This is the theory of the prophetic office which pervades the Koran, wherein the doctrine is formulated that every nation had its divine guide and that Mecca before Mahomet’s time had none. This place, then, Mahomet felt a divine call to fill. But we are never likely to ascertain what first put the idea into The Prophet’s Call. his mind. The fables which his biographers tell on this subject are not worth repeating; his own system, in which he is brought into direct communication with the Deity, though at a later period the angel Gabriel appears to have acted as intermediary, naturally leaves no room for such speculations; and since his dispensation was thought to be absolutely new, and to make a tabula rasa of the pagan past, his first followers, having broken with that past, left no intelligible account of the state of affairs which preceded their master’s call. Some generations therefore elapsed before that past was studied with any sort of sympathy, and details could not then be recovered, any more than they can now be supplied by conjecture.
So far as Mahomet may be said from the first to have formulated a definite notion of his work, we should probably be right in thinking it to be the restoration of the religion of Abraham, or (as the Koran calls him) Ibrahim. Though we have no reason for supposing the name of Abraham or Ishmael to have been known in Mecca generally before Mahomet’s time, the Biblical ethnology was not apparently questioned by those who were told of it, and there are stories, not necessarily apocryphal, of precursors of Mahomet going abroad in search of the “religion of Abraham.” One feature of that system, associated in the Bible with the name of Ishmael as well, was circumcision, which was actually observed by the Meccan tribes, though it would appear with technical differences from the Jewish method; the association of monotheism with it would seem reasonable enough, in view of Jewish traditions, such as Mahomet may have heard on his travels; why the doctrine of the future life should be coupled with it is less obvious. That the Meccan temple and its rites had been founded by these two patriarchs appears to have been deduced by Mahomet himself, but perhaps at a later stage of his career. That these rites, so far as they were idolatrous, were in flagrant defiance of the religion of Abraham must have struck any one who accepted the accounts of it which were current among Jews and Christians. The precursors, however, appear to have felt no call to reform their fellow-citizens; whereas it is evident that Mahomet regarded himself as charged with a message, which he was bound to deliver, and which his God would in some way render effective.
As it was obvious that the claim to be God’s mouthpiece was to claim autocracy, Mahomet employed the utmost caution in his mode of asserting this claim; on the question of his sincerity there have been different opinions held, and it is not necessary to take any view on this matter. For three years his followers were a secret society; and this period appears to have been preceded by one of private preparation, the first revelation being received when the Prophet was in religious retirement—a ceremony called taḥannuth, of which the meaning is uncertain, but which can have no connexion with the Hebrew teḥinnōth (“supplications”)—on Mount Ḥirā, near Mecca.
If the traditional dates assigned to the suras (chapters) of the Koran (q.v.) are correct, the earliest revelations took the form of pages or rolls which the Prophet was to read by the “grace of God,” as Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon community, said of the power given him to read the “Egyptian” The Koran. characters on the gold plates which he had found. The command to read is accompanied by the statement that “his most generous Lord had taught man by the pen (calamus) that which he did not know.” Waraqah, to whom the event is said to have been communicated by Khadija, called these communications “the Greater Law (nomos).” The Prophet was directed to communicate his mission at the first only to his nearest relatives. The utterances were from the first in a sort of rhyme, such as is said to have been employed for solemn matter in general, e.g. oracles or prayers. At an early period the production of a written communication was abandoned for oral communications, delivered by the Prophet in trance; their delivery was preceded by copious perspiration, for which the Prophet prepared (in accordance with instructions found in the Koran) by wrapping himself in a blanket. Trusty followers were instructed to take these utterances down, but the phenomena which accompanied their delivery at least in one case suggested imposture to the scribe, who apostatized in consequence. It is extraordinary that there is no reason to suppose that any official record was ever kept of these revelations; the Prophet treated them somewhat as the Sibyl did her leaves. This carelessness is equally astounding whether the Prophet was sincere or insincere.
If the matter afterwards collected in the Koran be genuine, the early revelations must have been miscellaneous in content, magical, historical and homiletic. To some strange oaths are prefixed. Apparently the purpose to be compassed was to convince the audience of their miraculous origin. The formulation of doctrines belongs to a later period and that of jurisprudence to the latest of all. In that last period also, when Mahomet was despot of Medina, the Koran served as an official chronicle, well compared by Sprenger to the leading articles on current events in a ministerial organ. Where the continuous paragraph is substituted for the ejaculation, the divine author apologizes for the style.
Certain doctrines and practices (e.g. washing of the person and the garments) must have been enjoined from the first, but our authorities scarcely give us any clear notion what they were. The doctrines to which the Prophet himself throughout assigned most value seem to have been the unity of God and the future life, or resurrection of the body. The former necessitated the abandonment of the idolatrous worship which formed part of the daily life of Mecca, and in which Mahomet and Khadija had been accustomed to take their part. Yet it seems to have been due to the initiative of the proselytes themselves rather than to the Prophet’s orders that the Meccan worship was actually flouted by them; for the anecdote which represents the Prophet and his young cousin attempting to pull down the images in or about the Kaʽba appears to be apocryphal. The first Moslem ceremony would appear to have been the religious meeting for the purpose of hearing the delivery of revelations, of which after the Prophet’s death the sermon (khuṭbah) took the place. After various provisional meeting-places, the house of one al-Arqam on Mt. Safa was adopted for this purpose; and here proselytes were initiated.
The names which the new community received from its founder are both philological puzzles; for the natural sense of Moslem (Muslim) appear to be “traitors,” and to this a contemporary war-song of Mahomet’s enemies alludes; while Ḥanīf (especially applied in the Koran Growth of the Early Community.to Abraham) seems to be the Hebrew word for “hypocrite.” The former is explained in the Koran to mean “one who hands over his face or person to God,” and is said to have been invented by Abraham; of the latter no explanation is given, but it seems to signify from the context “devotee.” Since the divine name Raḥmān was at one time favoured by Mahomet, and this was connected with one Maslama of the tribe Ḥanīfa, who figures in politics at the end of Mahomet’s career but must have been a religious leader far earlier, it has been suggested that the names originally belonged to Maslama’s community. The honour of having been Mahomet’s first convert is claimed for three persons: his wife Khadīja, his cousin Ali, who must have been a lad at the commencement of the mission, and Abū Bekr, son of Abū Quḥāfah, afterwards Mahomet’s first successor. This last person became Mahomet’s alter ego, and is usually known as the Ṣiddiq (Heb. word signifying “the saint,” but to the Arabs meaning “faithful friend)”. His loyalty from first to last was absolutely unswerving; he was selected to accompany Mahomet on the most critical occasion of his life, the Flight from Mecca; Mahomet is said to have declared that had he ever made a confidant of any one, that person would have been Abū Bekr; implying that there were things which were not confided even to him. The success of the Prophet’s enterprise seems to have been very largely due to the part played by this adherent, who possessed a variety of attainments which he put at Mahomet’s service; who when an intermediary was required was always ready to represent him, and who placed the commendation of the Prophet above every other consideration, private or public. The two appear to have regularly laid siege to those persons in Mecca whose adherence was desirable; and the ability which many of the earlier converts afterwards displayed, whether as statesmen or generals, is a remarkable testimony to their power of gauging men. It seems clear that the growth of wealth in Mecca had led to the accentuation of the difference between persons of different station, and that many were discontented with the oligarchy which governed the city. Converts could, therefore, be won without serious difficulty among the aliens and in general those who suffered under various disqualifications. Some members of the Jewish community seem also to have joined; and some relics of the Abyssinian expedition (i.e. descendants of the invaders). Among the most important converts of the Meccan period were Mahomet’s uncle Ḥamza, afterwards for his valour called “the Lion of God”; ʽAbd al-Raḥman (Abdar-raḥman) son of ʽAuf; Othman, son of ʽAffān, who married two of the Prophet’s daughters successively, and was Mahomet’s third successor; and, more important than any save Abū Bekr, Omar, son of al-Khattāb, a man of extraordinary force of character, to whom siege seems to have been laid with extraordinary skill. At some time he received the honourable title Fārūq (“Deliverer”); he is represented as regularly favouring force, where Abū Bekr favoured gentle methods; unlike Abū Bekr, his loyalty was not always above suspicion. His adherence is ascribed to the period of publicity.
The secrecy which marked its early years was of the greatest value for the eventual success of the mission; for when Mahomet came forward publicly he was already the head of a band of united followers. His own family appear to have been either firm adherents, or violent enemies, or lukewarm and temporizing—this is the best which can be said for ʽAbbās,of the Abbasid dynasty; or finally espousers of his cause, on family grounds, but not as believers.
Rejecting accounts of Mahomet’s first appearance as a public preacher, which are evidently comments on a text of the Koran, we have reason for supposing that his hand was forced by ardent followers, who many times in his career compelled him to advance. The astute rulers of First Period of Publicity.the community perceived that the claim made by Mahomet was to be dictator or autocrat; and while this was naturally ridiculed by them, some appear to have been devoted adherents of the gods or goddesses whom he attacked. The absence of dated documents for the period between this open proclamation (which in any case commenced before 616) and the Flight to Medina in 622 renders the course of events somewhat conjectural, though certain details appear to be well established. Apparently there was a war of words, followed by a resort to diplomacy and then to force; and then a period in which Mahomet’s attention was directed to foreign conversions, resulting in his being offered and accepting the dictatorship of Yathrib.
Of the war of words we have an imperfect record in the Meccan suras of the Koran, which occasionally state the objections urged by the opponents. In the course of the debate the theological position of both parties seems to have shifted, and the knowledge of both was probably increased in various ways. The miracle of the Koran, which at first consisted in its mode of production, was transformed into a marvel connected with its contents; first by Mahomet’s claiming to tell historical narratives which had previously been unknown to him; afterwards by the assertion that the united efforts of mankind and Jinn would be unable to match the smallest passage of the Koran in sublimity. Probably the first of these claims could not be long maintained, though A. J. Davis, “the Seer of Poughkeepsie,” in our own time brought a similar one in regard to his Principles of Nature. Indeed both parties evidently resorted to external aid. To those who undertook to name the man who dictated stories of the ancients to Mahomet day and night, he replied that the individual whom they had in mind was a foreigner, whereas the Koran was in pure Arabic. This was obviously a quibble, for it was scarcely asserted that he delivered the matter dictated to him without alteration. The purity of the Arabic also appears to have been very questionable; for several expressions appear to be Ethiopic rather than Arabic, and the person whom the Meccans had in mind is likely to have been an Abyssinian Christian, since the Christian technicalities of the Koran are mainly derived from the Ethiopic Gospels and Acts. On one occasion when some questions suggested by learned foreigners had been propounded to the Prophet he required a fortnight’s delay before the revelation which solved them came; the matter contained in his reply was certainly such as required research. His sources of information seem at all times to have been legendary rather than canonical; and the community which seemed to his opponents to agree best with his views was that of the Sabians or Mandaeans (qq.v.).
It has been suggested that Mahomet first threatened the Meccans with temporal punishment, and only when this threat failed to take effect resorted to the terrors of the Day of Judgment and the tortures of Hell; it seems however a mistake to distinguish between the two. These threats provided the Prophet with his most powerful sermons. The boasts of incomparable eloquence which the Koran contains are evidence that his oratorical power was effective with his audiences, since the more successful among the Arabic poets talk of their compositions somewhat in the same way. These discourses certainly led to occasional conversions, perhaps more frequently among women than men.
The diplomatic war seems to have been due to the Prophet’s increasing success, which led to serious persecution of Mahomet’s less influential followers, though, as has been seen, no blood could be shed in Mecca. Abū Ṭālib, moreover, prevented him from being exiled, though he probably The Exiles
in Axum.had to endure many personal insults. Something however had to be done for the persecuted Moslems, and (perhaps at the suggestion of his Abyssinian helper) Mahomet endeavoured to find a refuge for them in the realm of Axum. Abyssinia was doubtless connected in every Meccan mind with the “Expedition of the Elephant”; and such an alliance secured by Mahomet was a menace to the existence of the Meccan community. A deputation was therefore sent by the Meccan leaders to demand extradition of the exiles; and as chief of this expedition the future conqueror of Egypt, ʽAmr b. al-ʽĀṣ (see ʽAmr ibn el-Ass), first figures in history. To frustrate his efforts Mahomet sent his cousin Jaʽfar armed with an exposition of the Prophet’s beliefs and doctrines afterwards embodied in the Koran as the Sura of Mary (No. XIX.; though with the addition of some anti-Christian matter). The original document contained an account of the Nativity of Christ with various miracles not known to either the canonical or even the apocryphal gospels which have been preserved, but which would be found edifying rather than unorthodox by a church one of whose most popular books is The Miracles of the Virgin Mary. To this there were added certain notices of Old Testament prophets. The Abyssinian king and his ecclesiastical advisers took the side of Mahomet and his followers, whom they appear to have regarded as persecuted Christians; and an attempt made probably by the astute ʽAmr to embroil them with the Abyssinians on the difficult question of the Natures of Christ failed completely. There seems reason for thinking that the Abyssinian king contemplated bringing back the exiles by force, but was diverted from this purpose by frontier wars; meanwhile they were safely harboured, though they seem to have suffered from extreme poverty. The want of an Abyssinian chronicle for this period is a serious disadvantage for the study of Islamic origins. The sequel shows that regular correspondence went on between the exiles and those who remained in Mecca, whence the former were retained within the fold of Islam, with occasional though rare apostasies to Christianity.
Mahomet’s diplomatic victory roused the Meccan leaders to fury, and they decided on the most vigorous measures to which they could rise; Abū Ṭālib, Mahomet’s protector, and the clan which acknowledged him as sheikh, including the Prophet and his family, were blockaded in the quarter which they occupied; as in other sanctuaries, though blood might not be shed, a culprit might be starved to death. That this did not occur, though the siege appears to have lasted some months at least, was due to the weak good nature of the Meccans, but doubtless also to the fact that there were enlisted on Mahomet’s side many men of great physical strength and courage (as their subsequent careers proved), who could with impunity defy the Meccan embargo. After a time however the besieged found the situation intolerable, and any assistance which they might have expected from the king of Axum failed to come. The course adopted by Mahomet was retractation of those of his utterances which had most offended the Meccans, involving something like a return to paganism. A revelation came acknowledging the effectiveness of the Meccan goddesses as well as Allah, and the Meccans raised the siege. News of the reconciliation reached the Abyssinian exiles and they proceeded to return.
By the time they reached the Arabian coast the dispute had recommenced. The revelation was discovered to be a fabrication of the Devil, who, it appears, regularly interpolates in prophetic revelations; such at least is the apology preserved in the Koran, whence the fabricated verses have been expunged. Since our knowledge of this episode (regarded as the most disgraceful in the Prophet’s career) is fragmentary, we can only guess that the Prophet’s hand had once more been forced by the more earnest of his followers, for whom any compromise with paganism was impossible. The exiles went back to Abyssinia; and about this time both Abū Ṭālib and Khadīja died, leaving the Prophet unprotected.
He fled to the neighbouring oasis of Ṭāif, where wealthy Meccans had possessions, and where the goddess al-ʽUzza was worshipped with special zeal—where she is said still to exist in the form of a block of stone. He had but little success there in proselytizing, and indeed had to cease preaching; but he opened negotiations with various Meccan magnates for a promise of protection in case of his return. This was at last obtained with difficulty from one Moṭʽim b. ʽAdi. It would appear that his efforts were now confined to preaching to the strangers who assembled at or near Mecca for the ceremonies connected with the feasts. He received in consequence some invitations to come and expound his views away from Mecca, but had to wait some time before one came of a sort which he could wisely accept.
The situation which led to Mahomet’s Flight (hijra, anglicized
incorrectly hejira, q.v.) was singularly favourable to Mahomet’s enterprise, and utilized by him with extraordinary caution and skill. At the palm plantation called Yathrib, afterwards known as al-Medina, Medina, The Flight
to Yathrib.“the City” (i.e. of the Prophet), there were various tribes, the two most important, called Aus and Khazraj, being pagan, and engaged in an internecine feud, while under their protection there were certain Jewish tribes, whose names have come down to us as Qainuqā, Naḍīr and Quraiẓa—implying that the Israelites, as might be expected, imitated the totem nomenclature of their neighbours. The memory of these Israelites is exclusively preserved by the Moslem records; the main stream of Jewish history flowed elsewhere. In the series of combats between the Aus and Khazraj the former had generally been worsted; the Jews, as usual, had avoided taking any active part in the fray. Finally, owing to an act of gross perfidy, they were compelled to fight in aid of the Aus; and in the so-called battle of Buʽāth the Aus aided by the Jews had won a victory, doubtless attributed to the God of the Jews. As has been seen, the divine name employed by Mahomet (Raḥmān) was one familiar to the Jews; and the Yathribites who visited Mecca at feast-time were naturally attracted by a professed representative of al-Raḥmān. The first Yathribite converts appear to have been Khazrajites, and one Asʽad, son of Zurarah, is the most prominent figure. Their idea may have been in the first place to secure the aid of the Israelitish Deity in their next battle with the Aus, and indeed the primary object of their visit to Mecca is said to have been to request assistance for their war. For this the plan was substituted of inviting the Prophet to come to Mecca as dictator, to heal the feud and restore order, a procedure to which Greek antiquity offers parallels. The new converts were told to carry on secret propaganda in Yathrib with this end in view. At the next feast some of the rival faction embraced Islam. A trusty follower of Mahomet, Musʽab b.ʽUmair, who resembled Mahomet in personal appearance, was sent to Yathrib to assist in the work. The correspondence between this person and the Prophet would, if we possessed it, be of the greatest value for the study of Islamic antiquity. We first hear at this time of the conditions of Islam, i.e. a series of undertakings into which the convert entered: namely, to abstain from adultery, theft, infanticide and lying, and to obey Mahomet in licitis et honestis. The wholesale conversion of Yathrib was determined by that of two chieftains, Usaid b. Ḥuraith and Saʽd b. Muʽadh, both Ausites. The example of these was quickly followed, and iconoclasm became rife in the place. At the next Meccan feast a deputation of seventy Yathribites brought Mahomet a formal invitation, which he accepted, after imposing certain conditions. The interviews between Mahomet and the Yathribites are known as the ʽAqabah (probably with reference to a text of the Koran). The attitude of the Jews towards the project appears to have been favourable.
Among the conditions imposed by Mahomet on his new adherents appears to have been the protection and harbouring of the older proselytes, whom Mahomet most wisely determined to send before him to Yathrib, where, in the event of the Yathribite loyalty wavering, they could be counted The Refugees.on with certainty. The welcome given these refugees (muhājirūn), as they were from this time known in contradistinction to the helpers (anṣār) or allies from Yathrib, is said to have been of the warmest; a Helper with two wives would hand one over to a wifeless Refugee. A yet more important condition which preceded the Flight was readiness to fight men of all colours in defence of the faith.
Although the transactions with the people of Yathrib had been carried on with profound secrecy, the nature of Mahomet’s contract with his new adherents was somewhat divulged to the Meccan magnates, and the danger of allowing an implacable enemy to establish himself on the high-road of their north-bound caravans flashed upon them. The rule which forbade bloodshed in the sacred city had at last to be suspended; but elaborate precautions were to be taken whereby every tribe (except Mahomet’s own clan) should have their share in the guilt, which would thus be spread over the whole community fairly. When the committee appointed to perpetrate the crime reached Mahomet’s house, they found that it was too late; Mahomet had already departed, leaving Ali in his bed.
The actual Flight from Mecca to Yathrib has naturally been a favourite subject for romance, and indeed appears to have been executed with the greatest cunning. Accompanied by Abū Bekr only, Mahomet took refuge in a cave of Mt Thaur, in the opposite direction to that which he intended to take finally, and there remained for three days; provision had been made of every requisite, food, powerful camels, a trusty and competent guide. The date at which he reached Kuba, on the outskirts of Yathrib, where there was already some sort of Moslem oratory, is given as 8 Rabia I., of the year A.H. 1; the fact that he arrived there on the Jewish Day of Atonement gives us the date September 20, 622. The Meccans, who had employed professional trackers to hunt down the fugitives, proceeded to confiscate the houses and goods of Mahomet and of his followers who had fled.
The safe arrival of Mahomet at his destination marks the turning-point in his career, which now became one of almost unbroken success; his intellectual superiority over both friends and enemies enabling him to profit by defeat little less than by victory. His policy appears Mahomet as Despot of Yathrib.to have been to bind his followers to himself and them to each other by every possible tie; he instituted brotherhoods between the Refugees and Helpers, which were to count as relationships for legal purposes, and having himself no sons, he contracted numerous marriages partly with the same end in view; e.g. with the infant daughter of Abū Bekr, Ayesha (ʽA’ishah), whose ability he appears to have discerned; and the unamiable Ḥafṣa, daughter of Omar. Of his own daughters three were given to faithful allies, the one by whom his line is supposed to have been continued to our time, Fāṭima, was reserved for his cousin Ali. Owing to his efforts the alliance between the Refugees and Helpers resisted numerous attempts on the part of enemies to break it up, and only towards the end of the Prophet’s life, when he appeared to favour Meccans unduly, do we hear of any bitterness between the two communities.
The population of Yathrib, or, as it may now be called, Medina, soon divided into three groups: Mahomet’s united followers; the Jews; and a party known as the “Hypocrites,” i.e. professing Moslems, who were lukewarm, or disaffected, among whom the most prominent is The Medina Community.ʽAbdallah b. Ubayy, a Khazrajite chieftain, who is said to have himself aspired to be despot of Yathrib, and who till nearly the end of Mahomet’s career figures somewhat as a leader of the opposition; of his importance there is no question, but the reason for it and the mode whereby he made it felt are often obscure. It would seem that the pagans remaining in Yathrib speedily adopted Islam after the Prophet’s arrival, whence we hear little of serious opposition on their part. Coming in the capacity of prophet of the Israelitish God, Mahomet at first seems to have courted alliance with the Jews, and to have been ready to adopt their system with very slight modifications—similar to those which, according to his opinion, Jesus had come to introduce. The Jews met these advances by submitting him to examination in the intricacies of the Torah, and, finding him very poorly equipped, proceeded to denounce him as an imposter; one of his examiners is said to have even translated the Torah into Arabic with a view of convicting him of ignorance and imposture. They are further charged with exercising their magical arts on the Prophet and his followers, and to have succeeded thereby in producing barrenness among the Moslem women. Their conduct must not of course be judged by the statement of their enemies; it is however clear that Mahomet soon found that there was no possibility of compromising with them on religious questions, or of obtaining their loyal support; meanwhile he discovered that they were incapable of united and persistent action, and useless as warriors except against each other. He therefore resolved on their extermination. His ruthlessness in their case compared with his patience and forbearance in the case of the “Hypocrites” was consistent with his principle (always faithfully observed) that no inquiry was permissible into the motives of conversion, and with his division of mankind into the two antagonistic factions Believers and Unbelievers. The latter principle, as will be seen, was somewhat modified before the end of his life.
Mahomet’s failure to effect a compromise with the Jews caused a reaction in his mind towards paganism, and after about a year’s residence at Medina the direction of prayer, which had till then been towards Jerusalem, was turned southward to the pagan temple at Mecca. Development of Islam.With this change we may perhaps couple the adoption of the name Allah for the ; in the Moslem formula “in the Name of Allah the Raḥmān the Merciful,” the translation attached to the word Raḥmān, and the prefixing to it of the name Allah furnish clear evidence of theological transition, though the stages are not recorded; we know, however, that the Meccans approved of the name Allah, but objected to the name Raḥmān. Prayer (ṣalāt), said to have been prescribed on the occasion of the Prophet’s ascent into heaven after a miraculous journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, began to assume a stereotyped form in the place of assembly built by Mahomet immediately after his arrival; the attitudes of prayer in use among many communities (e.g. the Jewish standing, the prostration of some Christian sects) were combined. In general it was Mahomet’s principle, while taking over a practice from some other sect, to modify it so as to render the Moslem method absolutely distinct; thus when a summons to prayer became requisite, a new mode (by the voice of a crier called muaddhin or muezzin) was preferred to the Christian hammer; a new sacred day was adopted, in lieu of the Jewish Saturday and the Christian Sunday, in the weekday on which he had safely reached Kuba, Friday; but the sanctity was reduced to the actual time occupied by public worship. On the subject of food he was satisfied with the regulations of the Council of Jerusalem, recorded in Acts xv.; which were observed by few if any Christian sects. The prohibition of wine, which was enacted in A.H. 3, is said to have been occasioned by the riotous conduct of one of his followers when under the influence of liquor; Palgrave saw in it (perhaps with justice) a deliberate attempt to prevent harmony between Moslems and Christians, in whose most sacred rite wine is used. The Fast of Ramaḍān, in which food both liquid and solid is forbidden from sunrise to sunset, is said to be a pagan or semi-pagan institution; its importance for military training and discipline is not likely to have been overlooked by the Prophet. When the direction of prayer was altered, it is probable that Mahomet already intended to introduce into his system the whole of the pagan pilgrimage with its antique ceremonial (with, of course, a new interpretation); before this he is supposed to have aimed at the abolition of the Kaʽba and all that appertained to it.
The difference between religious and civil law has never been recognized by Islamic jurists, whose manuals deal equally with the law of contract and the amount of the body to be washed before prayer; the Prophet’s ordinances on both subjects were suggested by the occasion in each case, and it would seem that the opinions of trusted advisers were regularly heard before a revelation was issued. Even when this had been done the ordinance might be cancelled by an abrogating revelation; it being “easy for Allah” to substitute for a text already revealed another that was better or at least as good.
As Islam began to spread outside the limits of Medina both conversion to Islam and persistence therein were reduced to simple tests; the pronunciation of the double formula of belief in Allah and Mahomet was sufficient to indicate conversion, whilst payment of an income-tax, called by the Jewish names for alms (zakāt and ṣadaqah), was evidence of loyalty. This income-tax, of which the definite assessment perhaps belongs to a later period, was for the support of necessitous converts—an element in the community whose presence accounts for the mode in which the development of the Islamic state proceeded.
The industries in which the Meccan Refugees had been engaged were not of a sort which they could exercise at Medina, where the palm took the place of the camel as the basis of society. Moreover the Prophet seems to have given some disastrous advice on the subject of palmiculture, First Campaigns of Mahomet.and thereby to have accentuated the poverty of the place. He had, therefore, to find some fresh source of revenue in order to deal with this difficulty, and one of the Helpers is said to have suggested the plan which he adopted, viz. of attacking the Meccan caravans. With this view he organized a series of expeditions, taking the lead himself sometimes, while at others he gave it to one of his veteran followers; and at first only Refugees took part in them. The leaders of the caravans, however, were expert in evading attacks of this sort, which were doubtless regularly attempted by the desert tribes; and in the first year of his despotism Mahomet did not score a single success of the kind intended. The attempts were not wholly fruitless; for while on the one hand he accustomed his followers to campaigning, on the other he made a series of agreements with the chieftains of the tribes through whose territory the caravans ordinarily passed. Finding continued failure intolerable, he resolved to take advantage of his power to bind and to loose by sending an expedition of seven men under his cousin ʽAbdallah b. Jaḥsh to attack a caravan at the beginning of the sacred month Rajab, when, as raiding during such a season was unknown, success was practically certain. The commander on this, the Nakhlah raid, was given sealed orders, to be opened after two days’ march; the men were then to be given the option of retiring, if they disapproved. Of this no one seems definitely to have availed himself, and the raid ended successfully, for considerable booty was captured, while of the four persons who escorted the caravan two were made prisoners, one escaped, and one, ʽAmr b. al-Ḥaḍrami, was killed; he was the first person slain fighting against an Islamic force. The violation of the sacred month seems to have caused considerable scandal in Arabia, but led to no serious consequence; on the other hand the shedding of blood created a feud between the people of Mecca and the Refugees, with whom the Meccans long declined to identify the people of Medina. The fact that the man who had been killed was a client, not a citizen, made no difference. The circumstance that booty had been actually acquired appears to have helped the Prophet’s cause very considerably.
Both these consequences, the Meccan desire to avenge the blood that had been shed and the anxiety of the Medinese to take part in a successful raid, manifested themselves a few months later, when an expedition was organized by Mahomet to attack a caravan returning from Syria, Attack on Meccan Caravan.which had escaped him the previous year. Many desired to take part in the raid, and finally some 300 persons were selected, including a large number of “Helpers.” The leader of the caravan learned somehow that an attack was being organized by Mahomet on a large scale, and sent to Mecca for aid, while hurrying home by forced marches. This is the first historical appearance of Abū Sofiān (the leader of the caravan), who now for some years played the part of president in the Meccan opposition to Mahomet, and whose son was destined to found the second Mahommedan dynasty (see Caliphate, B). The day before the battle to be fought at Badr, near the point where the northern road leaves the coast to turn eastwards to Mecca, the Moslem army learned that the Meccan succour (some 1000 strong) was near, but that the caravan had escaped. The Meccans, it is asserted, would have returned home now that their object was secured, but the patrons of the man who had been killed in the former raid were compelled to strike for vengeance.
The battle (Ramaḍān 19, A.H. 2, usually made to synchronize with March 17, 624) ended in a complete victory for Mahomet, whose followers killed seventy of the enemy and took seventy prisoners—if we may trust what seem to be round numbers; it was attributed by him to divine co-operation, taking the form of an illusion wrought on the enemy, and the despatch of a regiment of angels to the assistance of the Believers, while on the other hand the treachery of the Devil did mischief to the Meccans. The popular tradition attributed it to the prowess of some of Mahomet’s followers, especially his uncle Ḥamza and his cousin Ali. In the narratives which have come down and which seem to be authentic the result is amply accounted for by the excellence of the Moslem discipline and the complete absence of any on the Meccan side. Mahomet himself is said to have fainted at the first sight of blood, and to have remained during the battle in a hut built for him to which swift camels were tied, to be used in case of a defeat; yet these accounts make him responsible for the tactics, whilst assigning the credit for the strategy to one Ḥobab b. al-Mondhir. Several of Mahomet’s old enemies and friends of Meccan days perished on this occasion; notably one Abu Jahl, his uncle, but represented as an implacable enemy; another hostile uncle, Abu Lahab, who is cursed in the Koran, was not present but died shortly after the battle.
The day is called in the Koran by a Syriac expression the “Day of Deliverance,” and both for internal and external politics it was of incalculable advantage to Islam. The booty and the ransoms of the prisoners provided the means for dealing with distress; the story of supernatural aid soothed the feelings of the defeated Meccans and had a tendency to disarm resistance elsewhere; whilst Mahomet in the popularity acquired by his victory was able to strike forcibly at his enemies in Medina. One of the sequels to the victory was a series of assassinations whereby critics of his actions were removed.
The defeat at Badr naturally led to efforts on the part of the Meccans to avenge their dead and besides to secure the commerce, by which they lived, from an enemy who was gradually getting all the seaboard that lay between Jeddah and Yanbo within his sphere of influence; and the The Taking of Mecca.year after Badr (A.H. 3) Abū Sofiān was able to lead a force said to be three times as great as that which had been defeated, and so numbering some 3000 men, against Medina itself; part of it was under Khālid b. al-Walid, one of the greatest of Arab captains, afterwards conqueror of Syria. It is said that Mahomet’s plan was to remain in Medina itself, and leave it to the Meccan commander to discover some way of taking the place; but that his hand was forced by his more ardent followers. Others, however, assign this advice to Abdallah b. Ubayy, and make the Prophet anxious to fight from the first. A battle was in consequence fought under Mt Uḥud (or Ohod), north-west of Medina, wherein Khālid succeeded in inflicting a severe defeat on Mahomet’s forces; his uncle Ḥamza, hero of Badr, was killed on this occasion. Fortunately for the Moslems, the Meccans considered that they had finished their task when they discovered that they had killed a number of the former equal to those who had fallen at Badr on their own side; instead therefore of pursuing their victory they went home. The immediate effect on Arabia appears to have been to dissipate the illusion that the Prophet could count on supernatural assistance in his wars; and we hear of some blows being dealt him from outside. Meanwhile his relations towards the Medinese Jews had grown more and more hostile, and these are credited with doing their best to rouse the Meccans to a sense of the danger which threatened them in the continuance of the Prophet’s power, and in general to stir up hostility against him in Arabia. Whether this part was played by them or not, in the fifth year of the Prophet’s stay at Medina a fresh invasion of the territory took place by a vast confederate force of Meccans with their allies, the tribes Fazarah, Asad, Murrah, &c., to the number, it is said, of 10,000. This time the intention of the leaders was undoubtedly to stamp out Islam. For the first time in Arab warfare Mahomet resorted to the expedient of defending his city by a trench, called by a Persian name, and suggested by a Persian convert. But he also employed agents to sow dissension among the confederates, and succeeded with this no less than with the other expedient. After a brief stay, and scarcely striking a blow, the confederacy dispersed, leaving the Jews who still remained in Medina to the summary vengeance of the Prophet. The want of records written from the Meccan standpoint renders the abortiveness of this last attempt at storming the Prophet’s stronghold scarcely intelligible.
From this time, however, the road towards the eventual taking of Mecca became easy, and we are told that such was the importance attached to that city throughout Arabia that its acquisition meant for the Prophet the acquisition of the whole peninsula. The next year (A.H. 6) he deemed it advisable to make a truce with the Meccans (the Truce of Ḥodaibiyah), whereby he secured for his followers the right of performing the pilgrimage in the following year; on this occasion he even consented to forgo his title “Prophet of Allah,” when the Meccans refused to sign a deed in which it was employed, greatly to the scandal of his more earnest followers, including Omar; they were however too deeply committed to Islam to be able to defy the Prophet. When the pilgrimage was performed (A.H. 7), Mahomet not only won important converts in the persons of Khālid and the no less able ʽAmr b. al-ʽAṣ, but in general impressed the population with the idea that his was the winning side. An excuse was easily found for invading Mecca itself in the following year, when Abū Sofiān took the opportunity of embracing Islam before it was too late. Very little resistance was now made by the Meccans, whose chiefs were already in Mahomet’s camp, and Mahomet used his victory with great moderation; his proscription list was finally reduced to two. The theory that all offences were cancelled by conversion was loyally observed. Moreover the Prophet incurred the displeasure of his Medinese friends by the anxiety which he displayed to soothe the feelings of his former enemies and antagonists. The Medinese, however, prevailed upon him to maintain their city as his political capital, while making Mecca the religious centre of his system; and this arrangement accounts perhaps more than anything else for the persistence of the system amid so many dynastic changes.
In the main he appears to have introduced little alteration into the government of Mecca, and it is said that he even declined to retaliate on those who had confiscated the possessions of the Refugees. Even the Kaʽba was left in the keeping of its former custodian, though of course its interior as well as its precincts were cleansed of all that could offend monotheists. In the following year the pilgrimage was for the first time conducted by a Moslem official, Abū Bekr. A proclamation was made on that occasion, forbidding idolaters in future to take part in the pilgrimage, and giving all Arabs who were not as yet converted four months’ grace before force was to be brought to bear upon them. In the following year Mahomet conducted the Pilgrimage himself. This solemn occasion (the “Farewell Pilgrimage”) was also employed for the delivery of an important proclamation, wherein the Prophet declared that God had completed their religion. The principle whereon he specially insisted was the brotherhood of Islam; but there is some difficulty in enucleating the original sermon from later additions.
It would seem that Mahomet’s enterprise originally comprised the conversion of Mecca only, and that he thought of himself as sent to his fellow-citizens only, as had been the case with earlier prophets, whose message was for their “brethren.” His views took a somewhat Conquest
of Arabia.different direction after his brief exile to Ṭāif, and the conquest of Arabia was in a way forced upon him in the course of his struggle with the Meccans. It is not indeed perfectly clear by what process he arrived at the resolution to exclude paganism from Arabia; at first he appears to have tolerated it at Medina, and in some of his earlier contracts with neighbouring tribes he is represented as allowing it, though some of our texts make him reserve to himself the right of enforcing Islam if he chose; only the Meccans were at first, according to the most authentic documents, excluded from all truce or treaty. At the battle of Badr he appears to have formulated the rule that no one might fight on his side who had not embraced Islam; and when once he had won fame as a successful campaigner, those who wished to share his adventures had to pass the Islamic test. After the battle of Uhud (Ohod) we hear of a tribe demanding missionaries to instruct them in Islamic principles; and though in the case recorded the demand was treacherous, the idea of sending missionaries appears not to have been unfamiliar even then, albeit the number sent (70), if rightly recorded, implies that the Prophet suspected the good faith of the applicants. After the taking of Mecca, whereby the chief sanctuary at any rate of north Arabia had been cleared of all idolatrous associations, and consecrated to monotheism, paganism in general was conscious of being attacked; and the city had scarcely been brought under the new régime before the Prophet had to face a confederation of tribes called Hawāzin and Thaqīf. The battle which ensued, known as the Day of Honain, was near ending disastrously for Islam; some of Mahomet’s sturdiest followers fled; but the terrible danger of a defeat in the neighbourhood of recently conquered Mecca roused the Prophet and Ali to heroism, and they saved the day. Emissaries were now sent far and wide demanding the destruction of idols, and only Ṭāif appears to have made any considerable resistance; against this place for the first time the Prophet made use of siege artillery, such as was employed by the Byzantines; though compelled by the bravery of the inhabitants to raise the siege, he was afterwards able to take the city by capitulation. It has been observed that here only do we read of much attachment to the old deities; in most places they were discarded with few regrets when once their impotence had been found out. After the taking of Mecca and the victory of Honain there appears to have been a general desire, extending even to the extreme south of Arabia, to make the best terms with the conqueror so soon as possible; iconoclasm became general. Flatterers of various kinds, including poets, came to seek the favour of the sovereign; and a mock war of words appears to have been substituted by some tribes for more serious fighting, to terminate in surrender. For warfare of his sort Mahomet had a powerful helper in the poet Ḥāssan b. Thābit, for whose effusions a pulpit was erected in the Medina mosque, and whose verses were said to be inspired by the Holy Spirit; though, as has been seen, Mahomet was not himself able to judge of their artistic merit. It was not, however, found easy to enforce the payment of the alms on these new converts; and this taxation caused an almost general revolt so soon as Mahomet’s death had been ascertained.
Although the central portions of the peninsula in Mahomet’s time were practically independent, large portions of the north-west and south-east were provinces of the Byzantine and Persian empires respectively, whence any scheme for the conquest of Arabia would necessarily involve Plan of World-conquest.the conqueror in war with these great powers. The conquest of Persia is said to have been contemplated by the Prophet as early as A.H. 5, when the famous Trench was being dug; but it was not till the year A.H. 7, on the eve of the taking of Mecca, that the Prophet conceived the idea of sending missives to all known sovereigns and potentates, promising them safety if, but only if, they embraced Islam. The text of these letters, which only varied in the name of the person addressed, is preserved (doubtless faithfully) by the Moslem Oral Tradition; in the middle of the last century a French explorer professed to discover in Egypt the original of one of them—addressed to the mysterious personage called the Muqauqis (Muḳauḳis) of Egypt—and this, it appears, is still preserved amid other supposed relics of the Prophet in Constantinople, though there is little reason for believing it to be genuine. The anecdotes dealing with the reception of these letters by their addressees are all fabulous in character. Two appear to have sent favourable replies: the king of Axum, who now could send the exiles whom he had so long harboured to their successful master; and the Egyptian governor, who sent Mahomet a valuable present, including two Coptic women for his harem. The emperor Heraclius is claimed as a secret convert to Islam, on whom pressure had to be put by his advisers to conceal his convictions. The Persian king is said to have sent orders to have Mahomet arrested; his messengers arrived in Medina, but were unable to carry out the commands of their master, who died while they were there. Two of the letters are said to have had important results. One was addressed to the Himyarite chiefs (called by the south Arabian appellation qail) in Yemen, and effected their conversion; another to the governor of Bostra in Roman Arabia, who put the bearer of this insolent message to death; a force was despatched by Mahomet immediately afterwards (beginning of A.H. 8) to avenge this outrage; and though the Moslems were defeated in their first encounter with the Byzantine forces at Mutah, they appear to have given a good account of themselves; it was here that Jaʽfar, cousin of the Prophet, met his death. In A.H. 9 a successful expedition was led by the Prophet himself northward, in which, though no Byzantine force was encountered, a considerable region was withdrawn from the Byzantine sphere of influence, and made either Islamic or tributary to Islam. At the time of his death (of fever, after a short illness) he was organizing an expedition for the conquest of Syria.
The Prophet claimed throughout that his revelation confirmed the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, and this claim is on the whole reasonable, though his acquaintance with both was in the highest degree vague and inaccurate. Still he reproduced the Old Testament as faithfully Jewish and Christian Communities.as he could, and though he patriotically endeavours to shed some lustre on his supposed ancestor Ishmael, he does not appear to have questioned the Biblical theory according to which the founder of the north Arabian nations was the son of a slave girl. On neither the truth of the Biblical history and miracles nor the validity of the Mosaic legislation does he appear to have cast any doubt. He even allows that Israel was the chosen people. The Gospel was known to him chiefly through apocryphal and heretical sources, which cannot certainly be identified; but he accepted the doctrine of the Virgin-birth, the miracles of healing the sick and raising the dead, and the ascension; the crucifixion and resurrection were clearly denied by the sect from whom he had received his information, and rejected by him, though certainly not because of any miracle which the latter involved. His quarrel with the Jews at Medina appears to have been by no means of his own seeking, but to have arisen unavoidably, owing to his particular view of his office being such as they could not accept; and his attempt to discredit, not the Mosaic Law, but the form in which they presented it, was an expedient to which he resorted in self-defence. An attempt was made shortly after his arrival at Medina to settle the relations between the two communities by a treaty, according to which, while their equality was guaranteed there should be little interference between the two; this, however, was found unworkable, and each victory of Mahomet over the Meccans was followed by violent measures against the Medinese Israelites. When experience had shown him their military incompetence he appears to have been unable to resist the temptation to appropriate their goods for the benefit of his followers; and his attack on the flourishing Jewish settlement of Khaibar, after the affair of Ḥodaibiyah, appears to have been practically unprovoked, and designed to satisfy his discontented adherents by an accession of plunder. Yet the consciousness that this process was economically wasteful suggested to him an idea which Islamic states are only now abandoning, viz. that of a tolerated caste, who should till the soil and provide sustenance for the Believers who were to be the fighting caste. Whereas then his former plan in dealing with Israelites had been to banish or massacre, he now left the former owners of Khaibar (who had survived the capture of the place) in possession of the soil, of whose produce they were to pay a fixed proportion to the Islamic state. The same principle was adopted in the case of later conquests of Jewish settlements.
Disputes with Christians occur somewhat later in the Prophet’s career than those with Jews, for neither at Mecca nor Medina were the former to be found in any numbers; individuals are likely to have been found in both cities, and we hear of one Medinese “AbuʽAmir the Monk,” who after Mahomet’s arrival at Medina branded him as an impostor, and, going himself into exile, made many an abortive attempt to discredit and injure Mahomet’s cause. The notices of him are meagre and obscure. Mahomet’s manifesto to the world, about the time of the taking of Khaibar, appears to represent his definite breach with Christianity; and when in the “year of the embassies” the Christians of Najran sent a deputation to him, they found that the breach between the two systems was not to be healed. Of the three alternatives open to them—conversion, internecine war, and tribute, they chose the last. The Christian tribes of north Arabia showed greater inclination towards the first. The Prophet’s policy was to give Christians lighter terms than Jews, and though the Koran reflects the gradual adoption by the Prophet of an attitude of extreme hostility to both systems, its tone is on the whole far more friendly to the former than to the latter. Some other communities are mentioned in the Koran, but merely in casual allusions: thus we know that Mahomet’s sympathy was with the Byzantines in their struggle with Persia, but in his most tolerant utterance the Magians or Mazdians as well as the Sabians (with whom his followers were identified by the Meccans) are mentioned with respect.
The financial requirements of Mahomet’s state were of the simplest kind, for there is no trace of any form of governmental department having been instituted by him, even when he was master of the peninsula; nor can we name any permanent officials in his employ except Mahomet’s Administration.his muaddhin Bilal, and perhaps his court-poet Hassān. A staff of scribes was finally required both to take down his revelations and to conduct correspondence; but although he encouraged the acquisition of penmanship (indeed some of the prisoners at Badr are said to have been allowed to ransom themselves by teaching it to the Medinese), we know of no regular secretaries in his employ. As despot of Medina he combined the functions of legislator, administrator, general and judge; his duties in the last three capacities were occasionally delegated to others, as when he appointed a governor of Medina during his absence, or leaders for expeditions, with provision for successors in case of their falling, but we hear of no permanent or regular delegation of them. Till near the end of his career at Medina he maintained the principle that migration to that city was a condition of conversion; but when, owing to the extension of his power, this was no longer practicable, his plan was in the main to leave the newly converted communities to manage their internal affairs as before, only sending occasional envoys to discharge special duties, especially instruction in the Koran and the principles of Islam, and to collect the Alms; quite towards the end of his life he appears to have sent persons to the provinces to act as judges, with instructions to judge according to the Koran, and where that failed, the practice (sunna), i.e. the practice of the community, for which a later generation substituted the practice of the Prophet. There were, therefore, no regular payments to permanent officials; and the taxation called Alms, which developed into an income-tax, but was at first a demand for voluntary contributions, was wholly for the support of the poor Moslems; it might not be used for the maintenance of the state, i.e. Mahomet and his family. For them, and for public business, e.g. the purchase of war material and gratuities to visitors, provision was made out of the booty, of which Mahomet claimed one-fifth (the chieftain’s share had previously, we are told, been one-fourth), while the remainder—or at least the bulk of it—was distributed among the fighting men; the Prophet appears to have prided himself on the justice of his distribution on these occasions, and doubtless won popularity thereby, though we hear occasionally of grumbling; for difficulties occurred when a defeated tribe embraced Islam, and so could claim equality with their conquerors, or when portions of the spoil were irregularly employed by Mahomet to allay resentment: the persons whose allegiance was thus purchased were euphemistically termed “those whose hearts were united.” What afterwards proved the main source of revenue in Islamic states dates from the taking of Khaibar; for the rent paid to the state by tolerated communities for the right to work their land developed long after Mahomet’s time into a poll-tax for Unbelievers (see Caliphate, e.g. B. § 8 and Mahommedan Institutions), and a land-tax for all owners of land. Immediately after the taking of Khaibar certain communities, of which the most notable was Fadak, sent tribute before they had been attacked and reduced; their land was regarded by Mahomet as his private domain, but after his death it was withdrawn from his heirs by his successor Abū Bekr, in virtue of a maxim that Prophets left no inheritance, which in the opinion of Fāṭima was contrary to Koranic doctrine, and invented by Ayesha’s father expressly for the purpose of excluding her and her husband from their rights; and this is likely to have been the case.
As a military organizer Mahomet, as has been seen, was anxious to adopt the most advanced of contemporary methods, and more than once is said to have scandalized the Arabs by foreign innovations, as at a later time the Moslem chiefs who first used gunpowder scandalized their co-religionists. The unit in his armies seems to have been, as of old, the tribe, under its natural leader; that he introduced no more scientific division, and nothing like a hierarchy of officers was perhaps due to the difficulty of reconciling such a system with the equality of all Moslems.
As has been seen, the Koran only assumed the character of a civil code as the need for one arose; and for some time after Mahomet’s arrival at Medina old-fashioned methods of settling disputes continued in use, and doubtless in accordance with precedent where such was known. For difficult cases, even in Arab opinion, divine inspiration was required; and since Mahomet naturally claimed to be in sole enjoyment of this, his utterances soon became the unique source of law, though he did not at first think of organizing a code. Such a plan is said to have occurred to him, and he even wished to dictate a code upon his deathbed; but his friends supposed or professed to suppose him to be delirious. A table regulating the “Alms” was left by him, it is said, in the possession of Abū Bekr; but other traditions assign another origin to this document.
Just as there were no regular officials for the arrangement of business, so there were none for its execution; when punishment was to be administered, any follower of Mahomet might be called upon to administer it. In the case of the massacre of the Banū Quraiẓah care was taken to see that some of the heads were struck off by their former allies, in order that the latter might be unable at any time to bring a demand for vengeance. The Prophet hoped by the mere terror of his name to make complete security reign throughout Arabia, and there is no evidence that any system of policing either it or even Medina occurred to him.
Until the death of Khadija the Prophet’s private life seems to have been normal and happy, for though the loss of his sons in infancy is said to have earned him a contemptuous epithet, he was fortunate in his adoption of Zaid b. Ḥarithah, apparently a prisoner ransomed by Khadija or one of her relatives, Domestic Life.who appears as dutiful almost to excess and competent in affairs. The marriages of his daughters seem all to have been happy, with, curiously, the exception of that between Fāṭima and Ali. His domestic troubles, to which an unreasonable amount of space seems to be devoted, even in the Koran, began after the Migration, when, probably in the main for political reasons, he instituted a royal harem. One of these political motives was the principle which long survived, that the conquest of a state was consummated by possession of the former monarch’s wife, or daughter; another, as has been seen, the desire to obtain the securest possible hold on his ministers. In his marriage with the daughter of his arch-enemy Abū Sofiān, before the latter’s conversion, we can see a combination of the two. Few, therefore, of these marriages occasioned scandal; yet public morality seemed to be violated when the Prophet took to himself the wife of his adopted son Zaid, whose name has in consequence the honour of mention in the Koran in the revelation which was delivered in defence of this act. Its purpose was, according to this, to establish the difference between adoptive and real filiation. Serious trouble was occasioned by a charge of adultery brought against the youthful favourite Ayesha, and this had to be refuted by a special revelation; the charge, which was backed up apparently by Ali, seems to have been connected with some deeper scheme for causing dissension between the Prophet and his friends. Yet another revelation is concerned with a mutiny in the harem organized by Omar’s daughter Hafsa, owing to undue favour shown to a Coptic concubine (Mary, mother of a son called Ibrahim, who died in infancy; his death was marked by an eclipse, January 27, 632); and various details of factions within the harem are told us by Mahomet’s biographers.
Of the members of this harem the only prominent one is Ayesha, married to the Prophet shortly after the Flight, when she had scarcely passed the period of infancy, but who appears to have been gifted with astuteness and ambition that were quite beyond her years, and who maintained her ascendancy over the Prophet in spite of the fact that many carping criticisms of his revelations are attributed to her. Some of this may have been due to the obligations (including pecuniary obligations) under which her father had laid Mahomet; but her reputation seems to have been greatly enhanced by the sending down of a revelation to exonerate her (A.H. 6), for which she thanked God and not the Prophet. Each accession to the harem rendered the building of a house or room necessary for the newcomer’s accommodation; a fact in which Robertson Smith perhaps rightly saw a relic of the older system whereby the tent was the property of women. The trouble noticed above seems to have arisen from the want of a similar arrangement in the case of slave girls, with whom Mahomet’s system permits cohabitation. When Mahomet, whether in consequence of the fatigue incurred by the “Farewell Pilgrimage,” or, as others thought, by the working of some poison put into his food some years before by a Jewess of Khaibar, was attacked by the illness which proved fatal, it was to the house of Ayesha that he was transferred (from that of another wife) to be nursed; and he apparently died in the arms of the favourite, on whose statements we have to rely for what we know of his last hours.
The traditional description of Mahomet is “of middle height, greyish, with hair that was neither straight nor curly; with a large head, large eyes, heavy eyelashes, reddish tint in the eyes, thick-bearded, broad-shouldered, with thick hands and feet”; he was in the habit of giving violent expression General Characteristics.to the emotions of anger and mirth. The supposition that he at any time suffered from physical weakness seems absolutely refuted by his career as a leader of difficult, dangerous and wearisome expeditions, from his migration to Medina until his death; indeed, during his last years he exhibited a capacity for both physical and intellectual activity which implies a high degree of both health and strength; and without these the previous struggle at Mecca could scarcely have been carried on. The supposition that he was liable to fits (epileptic or cataleptic) was intended to account for certain of the phenomena supposed to accompany the delivery of revelations; some of these however rest on very questionable authority: and the greater number of the revelations give evidence of careful preparation rather than spontaneity.
The literary matter ascribed to the Prophet consists of (1) the Koran (q.v.); (2) certain contracts, letters and rescripts preserved by his biographers; (3) a number of sayings on a vast variety of topics, collected by traditionalists. The references in the Koran to a form of literature called “Wisdom” (ḥikmah) suggest that even in the Prophet’s time some attempts had been made to collect or at least preserve some of the last; the general uncertainty of oral tradition and the length of time which elapsed before any critical treatment of it was attempted, and the variety of causes, creditable and discreditable, which led to the wilful fabrication of prophetic utterances, render the use to which No. 3 can be put very limited. Thus the lengthy description of the journey to heaven which Sprenger was inclined to accept as genuine is regarded by most critics as a later fabrication. It is very much to be regretted that the number of pièces justificatives (No. 2) quoted by the biographers is so small, and that for these oral tradition was preferred to a search for the actual documents, some of which may well have been in existence when the earliest biographies were written. Their style appears to have been plain and straightforward, though the allusions which they contain are not always intelligible.
In his personal relations with men Mahomet appears to have been able to charm and impress in an extraordinary degree, whence we find him able to control persons like Omar and Khalid, who appear to have been self-willed and masterful, and a single interview seems to have been sufficient to turn many an enemy into a devoted adherent. Cases (perhaps legendary) are quoted of his being able by a look or a word to disarm intending assassins.
Although the titles which he took were religious in character, and his office might not be described as sovereignty, his interests appear to have lain far more in the building up and maintenance of empire than in ecclesiastical matters. Thus only can we account for the violent and sudden changes which he introduced into his system, for his temporary lapse into paganism, and for his ultimate adoption of the cult of the Black Stone, which, it is said, gave offence to some of his sincere adherents (e.g. Omar), and seems hard to reconcile with his tirades against fetish-worship. The same is indicated by his remarkable doctrine that the utterance of the creed constituted a Moslem and not its cordial acceptance, and his practice of at times buying adhesion. Even an historian so favourable to the Prophet as Prince Caetani recognizes that ultimately what he regarded as most important was that his subjects should pay their taxes. And in general his system was not favourable to fanaticism (al-ghulū fi’l-dīn); he repeatedly gave permission for concealment of faith when the profession of it was dangerous; he took care to avoid institutions which, like the Jewish Sabbath, interfered seriously with military expeditions and the conduct of business, and permitted considerable irregularity in the matters of prayer and fasting when circumstances rendered it desirable. In his theory that Koranic texts could be abrogated he made wise provision against the danger of hasty legislation, though some of its usefulness was frustrated by his failure to provide for such abrogation after his death.
As has been seen, Mahomet claimed to introduce a wholly new dispensation, and a maxim of his law is that Islam cancels all that preceded it, except, indeed, pecuniary debts; it is not certain that even this exception always held good. Hence his system swept away a number of practices Mahomet’s Reforms.(chiefly connected with the camel) that were associated with pagan superstitions. The most celebrated of these is the arrow-game, a form of gambling for shares in slaughtered camels, to which poetic allusions are very frequent. More important than this was his attitude towards the blood-feud, or system of tribal responsibility for homicide (whether intentional or accidental), whereby one death regularly led to protracted wars, it being considered dishonourable to take blood-money (usually in the form of camels) or to be satisfied with one death in exchange. This system he endeavoured to break down, chiefly by sinking all earlier tribal distinctions in the new brotherhood of Islam; but also by limiting the vengeance to be demanded to such as was no more than the equivalent of the offence committed, and by urging the acceptance of money-compensation instead, or complete forgiveness of the offence. The remembrance of pre-Islamic quarrels was visited by him with condign punishment on those who had embraced Islam; and though it was long before the tribal system quite broke down, even in the great cities which rose in the new provinces, and the old state of things seems to have quickly been resumed in the desert, his legislation on this subject rendered orderly government among Arabs possible.
Next in importance to this is the abolition of infanticide, which is condemned even in early Suras of the Koran. The scanty notices which we have of the practice are not altogether consistent; at times we are told that it was confined to certain tribes, and consisted in the burying alive of infant daughters; at other times it is extended to a wider area, and said to have been carried out on males as well as females. After the taking of Mecca this prohibition was included among the conditions of Islam.
In the laws relating to women it seems likely that he regulated current practice rather than introduced much that was actually new, though, as has been seen, he is credited with giving them the right to inherit property; the most precise legislation in the Koran deals with this subject, of which the main principle is that the share of the male equals that of two females. Our ignorance of the precise nature of the marriage customs prevalent in Arabia at the rise of Islam renders it difficult to estimate the extent to which his laws on this subject were an improvement on what had been before. The pre-Islamic family, unless our records are wholly misleading, did not differ materially from the Islamic; in both polygamy and concubinage were recognized and normal; and it is uncertain that the text which is supposed to limit the number of wives to four was intended to have that meaning. The “condition of Islam” whereby adultery was forbidden is said to have been ridiculed at the time, on the ground that this practice had never been approved. Yet it would seem that certain forms of promiscuity had been tolerated, though the subject is obscure. Against these services we must set the abrogation of some valuable practices. His unfortunate essay in astronomy, whereby a calendar of twelve lunar months, bearing no relation to the seasons, was introduced, was in any case a retrograde step; but it appears to have been connected with the abrogation of the sanctity of the four months during which raiding had been forbidden in Arabia, which, as has been seen, he was the first to violate. He also, as has been noticed, permitted himself a slight amount of bloodshed in Mecca itself, and that city perhaps never quite recovered its sacrosanct character. Of more serious consequences for the development of the community was his encouragement of the shedding of kindred blood in the cause of Islam; the consequences of the abrogation of this taboo seem to have been felt for a great length of time. His assassinations of enemies were afterwards quoted as precedents in books of Tradition. No less unfortunate was the recognition of the principle whereby atonement could be made for oaths. On the question how far the seclusion of women was enjoined or countenanced by him different views have been held.
Besides the contemporary documents enumerated above (Koranic texts, rescripts and authentic traditions) many of the events were celebrated by poets, whose verses were ostensibly incorporated in the standard biography of Ibn Isḥāq; in the abridgment of that biography which we possess many of these Sources.are obelized as spurious, and, indeed, what we know of the procedure of those who professed to collect early poetry gives us little confidence in the genuineness of such odes. A few, however, seem to stand criticism, and the diwan (or collection of poems) attributed to Ḥassan b. Thābit is ordinarily regarded as his. Though they rarely give detailed descriptions of events, their attestation is at times of value, e.g. for the story that the bodies of the slain at Badr were cast by the Prophet into a pit. Besides this, the narratives of eyewitnesses of important events, or of those who had actually taken part in them, were eagerly sought by the second generation, and some of these were committed to writing well before the end of the 1st century. The practice instituted by the second Caliph, of assigning pensions proportioned to the length of time in which the recipient had been a member of the Islamic community, led to the compilation of certain rolls, and to the accurate preservation of the main sequence of events from the commencement of the mission, and for the detailed sequence after the Flight, which presently became an era (beginning with the first month of the year in which the Flight took place). The procedure whereby the original dates of the events (so far as they were remembered) were translated into the Moslem calendar—for something of this sort must have been done—is unknown, and is unlikely to have been scientific.
Mahomet’s conduct being made the standard of right and wrong, there was little temptation to “whitewash” him, although the original biography by Ibn Isḥāq appears to have contained details which the author of the abridgment omitted as scandalous. The preservation of so much that was historical left little room for the introduction of miraculous narrations; these therefore either belong to the obscure period of his life or can be easily eliminated; thus the narratives of the Meccan council at which the assassination of Mahomet was decided, of the battles of Badr, Uḥud and Ḥonain, and the death of Sadʽb. Mu ʽadh, would lose nothing by the omission of the angels and the devil, though a certain part is assigned the one or the other on all these occasions. We should have expected biographies which were published when the ʽAbbasids were reigning to have falsified history for the purpose of glorifying ʽAbbās, their progenitor; the very small extent to which this expectation is justified is a remarkable testimony to their general trustworthiness.
1. Family of ʽAbd al-Moṭṭalib, Mahomet’s maternal grandfather:—*ʽAbbās (d. A.H. 32 or 34), *Ḥamza (d. A.H. 3), ʽAbdallah, father of the Prophet, *Abū Ṭālib (said to be named ʽAbd Manāf), ? *Zubair, Ḥārith, Ḥajal, Moqawwam, Ḍirār, *Abū Lahab (said to be named ‘Abd al-ʽUzzā, d. A.H. 2), *Ṣafiyyah (d. A.H. 20), Umm Ḥakīm, al-Baiḍā, ‘Ātikah, Umaimah, Arwā, Barrah.
2. Family of Abū Tālib:—*‘Aqīl (d. after A.H. 40), *Jaʽfar (d. A.H. 8), Ṭālib, Ṭulaiq, ‘Alī, the caliph, Umm Hāni’, Jumānah, Raiṭah.
3. Family of Mahomet. Wives:—*Khadīja (Children:—Qāsim; ? ʽAbd Manāf (Ṭāhir, Tayyib); *Zainab m. Abu’l-ʽĀs b. Rabīʽ, d. A.H. 7; *Ruqayyah, m. ‘Othmān b. ‘Affān, d. A.H. 2; *Umm Kulthūm m. ‘Othmān b. ‘Affān, d. A.H. 9; *Fāṭimah, m. ‘Alī, d. A.H. 11): *Saudah bint Zamʽah,? d. A.H. 54, *‘A’ishah (Ayesha) bint Abī Bekr (d. A.H. 56), *Hafṣa bint ‘Omar (d. A.H. 45 or 47), *Zainab bint Khuzaimah, d. before A.H. 11, *Zainab bint Jaḥsh, d. A.H. 20, *Umm Salimah, d. A.H. 59, *Maimūnah, d. A.H. 38, *Juwairiyah, d. A.H. 56, *Umm Ḥabībah Ramlah bint Abī Sofiān, d. A.H. 44.
Concubines:—*Ṣafiyyah bint Ḥuyyay, d. A.H. 36, *Raiḥānah bint Zaid, *Māriyah the Copt, d. A.H. 15 or 16, mother of Ibrāhim. (Other names given by Ibn Saʽd, vol. viii.)
Chronological Table of Chief Events in the Life of Mahomet.
|?||595||Marriage with Khadīja.|
|?||610||Commencement of call.|
|616||Persian conquest of the nearer East.|
|?||617||Flight of his followers to Abyssinia.|
|?||618||–||619 Siege in Mecca. Retractation and subsequent repudiation.|
|Death of Abū Talīb and Khadija.|
|?||620||Flight to Ṭāif.|
|622||July 16. Beginning of the Moslem era.|
|Sept. 20. Arrival at Kuba after the Flight.|
|632||Jan. 27. Death of his son Ibrāhīm.|
|632||June 7. Death of Mahomet.|
The following dates are given by the Arabic historians according to their own calendar. For the reasons which have been seen it is impossible to obtain certain synchronisms.
|A.H.||2.||Rajab 1. Raid of ʽAbdallah b. Jaḥsh to Nakhlah.|
|Ramaḍān 19. Battle of Badr.|
|Shawwāl 15. Attack on the Banū Qainuqā.|
|3.||Rabīa I. 14. Assassination of Kaʽb b. al-Ashraf.|
|Shawwāl 7. Battle of Uḥud.|
|4.||Ṣaphar. Massacre of Mahomet’s 70 missionaries at Bi’r Maʽūnah.|
|Rabīa I. Attack on the Banu Naḍīr.|
|Dhu’l-Qaʽda. Abortive raid called “the lesser Badr.”|
|5.||Shaabān 2. Attack on the Banu’l-Muṣṭaliq (according to Wāqidī).|
|Dhu’l-Qaʽda. Battle of the Trench.|
|Massacre of the Banū Quraiẓah.|
|6.||Jomādā i. Capture of a caravan by Zaid b. Ḥārithah.|
|Futile attempt to assassinate Abū Sofiān.|
|Dhu’l-Qaʽda. Affair of Ḥodaibiyah.|
|7.||Jomādā i. Taking of Khaibar. Mission extended to the world.|
|Dhu’l-Qaʽda. Pilgrimage to Mecca (called ‘umrat al-qaḍiyyah)|
|8.||Jomādā i. Expedition to Mūtah.|
|Ramaḍān 20. Taking of Mecca.|
|Shawwāl. Battle of Ḥonain. Attack on Ṭā‘if.|
|9.||Muḥarram. Tax-gatherers sent over Arabia.|
|Rajab. Expedition to Tabūk. Rival Mosque built at Kubā, destroyed on Mahomet’s return to Medina.|
|Dhu’l-Ḥijja. Pilgrimage conducted by Abu Bekr. Abolition of idolatry in Arabia.|
|10.||Ramaḍān. Expedition of ‘Alī to Yemen.|
|Dhu’l-Qaʽda. “Farewell Pilgrimage.”|
|11.||Ṣaphar. Expedition ordered against the Byzantines.|
The saḥābah, as they are called, are the subject of a vast literature, and the biographical dictionaries devoted to them, of which the best known are the Usd ul-ghāba of the historian Ibn Athīr and the Iṣābah of Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalāni, enumerate many thousands. The following two lists are of special groups.
(a) Naqībs, i.e. leaders selected by Mahomet from the Medinese tribes: i. Khazrajites:—As‘ad b. Zurārah, Saʽd b. al-Rabīʽ, ʽAbdallah b. Rawāḥah, al-Barā’ b. Maʽrūr, ʽAbdallah b. ʽAmr b. Ḥarām, ʽUbādah b. al-Ṣāmit, Saʽd b. ʽUbādah, al-Mondhir b. ʽAmr; ii. Ausites: Usaid b. Ḥuḍair, Saʽd b. Khaithamah, Rifāʽah b. ʽAbd al-Mondhir.
(b) Commanders of Expeditions: names occurring in (a) are not repeated: ʽAbdallāh b. Jaḥsh, ʽAbd ar-Raḥmān b. ʽAuf, Abū Bekr, Abū Qatādah, Abū ʽUbaidah b. al-Jarrāḥ, ʽAli, ʽAlqamah b. Mujazziz, ʽAmr b. al-‘Āṣ (ibn el-Ass), Bashīr b. Saʽd, Ḍaḥḥāk b. Sofiān, Ghālib b. ʽAbdallāh, Ibn Abi’l-Aujā, Kaʽb b. ʽUmair, Khālid b. al-Walīd, Kurz b. Jābir, Marthad b. Abī Marthad, Muḥammad b. Maslamah, Quṭbah b. ʽĀmir, Saʽd b. Abī Waqqāṣ, Saʽd d. Zaid, Salama b. ʽAbd al-Asad, Shujāʽ b. Wahb, ʽUbaidah b. al-Ḥārith, ʽUkkāshah b. Miḥṣan, ʽUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb, Usamah b. Zaid, ʽUyainah b. Ḥiṣn, Zaid b. Ḥārithah.
Authorities.—The biography of Ibn Isḥāq was before the world long before the two chief causes for the falsification of tradition had begun to have serious effects; these were the need for legal precedents, and the concept of saintliness, combining those of asceticism and thaumaturgy. These gave rise to the classical works on the Evidences of Mohammed’s Mission by Abū Nuʽaim (d. A.D. 1012–1013) and Baihaqī (d. A.D. 1066).
Lives of the Prophet († indicates that the work is lost); †ʽUrwah b. Zubair (d. 712–713); †Musa b. ʽUkbah (d. 758–759); †Mohammed b. Isḥāq (d. 768); Mohammed b. Hishām (d. 828–829), ed. Wüstenfeld (Göttingen, 1860); reprinted in Egypt by Zubair Pasha, a series of excerpts from the last; Mohammed b. Omar al-Wāqidī (d. 823), portion published by Kremer (Calcutta, 1855), abridged trans. of a fuller copy by Wellhausen, Muhammad in Medina (Berlin, 1882); Mohammed b. Saʽd (d. 844–845), an encyclopaedic work on the history of Mahomet and his followers, called Ṭabaqat, ed. Sachau and others (Berlin, foll.); Mohammed b. Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (see Tabari). Many more writers on this subject are enumerated in the Fihrist, cf. Sprenger’s Leben Muhammads, iii. 54–76.
Among the most popular compilers of later times are: Ibn al-Athir (q.v.) al Jazarī, the historian (d. 1233); Aḥmad b. Ali al Kasṭalānī (d. A.D. 1517), whose al-Mawāhib al-Laduniyyah was published with commentary (Cairo, 1278); Ḥosain b. Mohammed al Diyarbakrī (d. 1574) whose work Ta’rikh al-Khamīs was published in Cairo, A.H. 1382; ‘Ali b. Burhān al-dīn al-Ḥalabī (d. A.D. 1634), whose biography called Insān al-ʽuyūn was published in Cairo, A.H. 1292. To these must be added all the collections of Tradition.
Modern Authorities.—The critical study of the Life of Mahomet begins in Europe with the publication by Th. Gagnier in 1723 of the Life by Abulfeda (q.v.). Presently there appeared an apologetic biography by Henri Cmte. de Boulainvilliers (2nd ed., Amsterdam, 1731), to which Gagnier replied in 1732 (La Vie de Mahomet, traduite, &c. ibid.). The next considerable advance in the treatment of the subject is marked by the biography of G. Weil (Muhammed der Prophet, Stuttgart, 1843), which is wholly without religious bias; the popular life by Washington Irving (London, 1849) is based on this. That by J. L. Merrick (the Life and Religion of Mohammed, Boston, U.S.A., 1850) rests on Shi‘ite sources. The search for MSS. in India conducted by A. Sprenger led to the discovery of fresh material, which was utilized by Sprenger himself in his unfinished Life of Mohammad (Pt. 1, Allahabad, 1851), and his more elaborate Das Leben und die Lehre des Mohammad (Berlin, 1861–1865), and by Sir William Muir in his Life of Mahomet, (London, 1858–1861) 4 vols.: afterwards abridged in one volume and reprinted. These are still the standard treatises on the subject; the pro-Christian bias of Muir is very marked, while Sprenger has hazarded numerous conjectures on subjects with which he had little familiarity. The biography by S. W. Koelle, Mohammed and Mohammedanism (London, 1889), is pro-Christian, the popular work of Syed Ameer Ali The Spirit of Islam, (London, 1896) an apology for Mahommedanism. Later treatises, resting on original authorities, are those by H. Grimme Mohamed, (Münster, 1892, and Munich, 1904), F. Buhl, Mohameds Liv (Copenhagen, 1903—Danish: since translated into German), D. S. Margoliouth Mohammed and the Rise of Islam (N.Y., 1905, &c.), and Prince Caetani Annali del Islam, i. ii. (Milan, 1905–1907). For the direction of public opinion in Mahomet’s favour the Lecture on The Hero as Prophet in Carlyle’s Heroes and Hero-worship (London, 1846) was singularly effective; his views were enforced by R. Bosworth Smith Mohammed and Mohammedanism, (London, 1873, &c.). A somewhat similar line was taken in France by J. Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire, Mahomet et le Coran, (Paris, 1865), while the Vie de Mahomet d’après la Tradition of E. Lamairesse and G. Dujarric (Paris, 1897) is written entirely from the Moslem standpoint.
- * is prefixed to names which figure on occasions which seem to be historical. Female names are in italics.
- Dates are given A.D.