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673

ARABIA


673


but their power had so much declined that they had to seek alliance with the Sassanian kings of Persia, which caused a general revolt in southern and central Arabia. In 568, two years before Mohaninieii's birth, a Persian militarj' ex|x;dition invaded Yemen and Oman and brought the Christian Abyssinian dynasty and that of Abramos to an end. A tributary prince wa.s appointeil over Hiniyar by the .Sa.ssanian Kings, in the i)erson of Saif dhu Yezen, a descendant of the old royal race of Hiinyar. This prince, during the reign of .Masrouq, and at the instigation of some noble and rich Himyarites who had a.ssisted liim with money and all the means available, repaired to Constantinople and appealed to Mauricivis, the Byzantine emperor, for lussistance in delivering Himyar from the Aby.ssinian yoke. Mauricius refused to help him, on the ground that the unity of Cliris- tian faith between the Abyssinians and the Byzan- tines prevented liim from taking any such action. Saif, disappointed anil hopeless, went to Nu'mdn ibn al Mundhir, Prince of Hira. This prince pre- sented Saif to Khosroes Nousliirwan, King of Persia, to whom he explained the object of his mission. Khosroes at fust was unwilling to unilertake so dangerous an enterprise, but afterwards, won over by the promises of Saif and the advice of his min- isters, sent an army of 4,000 Persian soldiers, ilrawn from prisons, untler the command of Wahriz and accompanied by Saif himself.

The army advanced to Iladramaut, where it was joined by Saif's own adherents, 2,0(X) strong, and attacked Masrouq. who was defeated and slain in battle. Saif was installed king over Himyar but sul)ject to Khosroes Xousliirwan. His first act was to expel from Himyar tnost of the Aby.ssinian res- idents, amon^ whom were many Christians. Sub- sequently, Saif was murtlered by some Abyssinian members of his own court; and after his deatli no more native Himyarite princes were placed on the throne. He was succeeded first by Wahriz, leader of the Persian army, then by Zin, Binegan, Chore, Chosrau. and Badhan. the last of whom was the governor of Himyar at the time of Mohammed's conquest of .\rabia. With the overtlirow of the Abyssinian dynasty in the south, the increase of factional rivalries between the Byzantine and the Persian Empires in the nortli, and tlic advent of I.slam, Christianity in .\rabia came to an end. It must not be imagined, however, that this violent end came without heroic resistance. The famous church, built by .\bramos at Sanaa, was still in a flourisliing condition at the time of Mohammed, who .speaks of his own visit to it, and of listening to the sermons of its famous and eloquent bishop, Quss ibn Sa'ida. The Christians of Najran successfully resisted, during the life of the Pronliet, all attempts at Islamic proselytism, altliougn, under 'Omar, Mohammed's second successor (f);]4-6-44), they were finally compelled to embrace Islam; miuiy refused to ilo so and were expellctl. These migrated to Kufa and Hira, on the Euphrates, wliere, towards the end of the eighth centiirj', the Nestorian patriarch, Timotheus I (778-820), appointed over them a bishop with both native and Nestorian clergy, schools, and churches.

Christianity, in the time of Mohammed, under one form or another, must have had also some followers in Hijaz, the stronghold of Islam, and especially around Mecca. Slaves were not infre- quently Christian captives brought in by the trading .Arabs in their journeys to Syria and Sle.sopotamia. An .\rab poet, quoted by Wcllhau.sen (Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, IV, 200), says: " Wlience has .-M-.-V'sha his Christian ideas? From the wine-traders of Hira of whom he bought his wine; they brought them to liim." These Christian influences are

clearly visible in the Koran. Among the early


friends and followers of the Prophet were Zaid, his adopted son, who was of Christian parentage, and many otliers, who, like the three famous lianif (which is translated by many as "hermits", "monks", etc.), abandoned Christianity for Lslain. One of these, Warqa, is creilited by Moslem writers with a knowledge of the Christian .Scriptures, and even with having translated some [xjrtions of them into Arabic. Father L. Sheiklio, S.J., of the Catholic University of Beirut, Syria, has made a gooil collec- tion of extracts from ante-I.slamic and immediately Eost-lslamic .\rabic poets, in which Christian ideas, eliefs, and practices are allude<l to. (See " .\l-.Mash- riq" in "The Orient" of 1905, also published sep- arately.)

At Medina, the Prophet is said to have received repeated eniba.ssies from Christian tribes. His treatment of the Christian Arabs was distinctly more liberal and courteous than that accorded by him to the .lews. He looked on the latter as a dan- gerous political menace, while he regarded the former not only;us subjects, but also as friends and allies. In one of his supposed letters to the Bishop Ka'b of the tribe of Haritli, to the Bishop of Najran. and to their priests anil monks, we read: "There shall be guaranteed to you the protection of God and His Apostles for the possession of your churches and your worship and your monasteries, and no bishop, or priest, or monk, shall be molested ... so long as you remain true and fulfil your obligations." To Bishop Yulianna ibn Ruba and to the chiefs of the people of .\yla he wrote: " Peace to you. I com- mend you to God besides Whom there is no God. I would not war against you without first writing to you. Either accept I.slam or pay poll-tax. .\nd hearken to God and His .-Vpostle and to these envoys. . . . If you turn my envoys back and are not friendly to them, then I will accept no reparation from you. but I will war against you and will take the children captive and will slay the aged. ... If you will hearken to my envoys, then sliall you be under God's protection and Mohammed's anil that of his allies. " — W. A. Sheild, Islam and the Oriental Cluirches (1904), 103. To the heathen .\rabs he held out no compromise; they had either to embrace Islam or die; but to the Christians of his countrj- he always showcil himself generous and tolerant, although the Mohammedan traiiition tells us tiiat on his death- bed he changed his policy towards them;ind is .said to have commaniled that none but Moslems should dwell in the land. In one of his controversies with the Christian tribe of Taghlib, Moliammed agreed that the adults should remain Christian but the children should not be baptized (Wellhausen, op. cit.). The feelings between the Christian and the Mohammedan Arabs were so friendly at the time of the Prophet that many of the latter sought refuge with the former on more than one occasion. Under 'Omar, however, Mohammed's second successor, the policy of Lslam towards the Christians completely changed, as can be seen from the so-called "Constitu- tion of 'Omar", whidi, though generally regarded as spurious, cannot be entirely disregarded.

' Omar's pohcy practically put an end to Christian- ity in Arabia, and certainly dealt a death-blow to the Christian religion in the newly conquered West- Asiastic provinces. This extinction and ilis,solution was violent, but gradual in the peninsula, where many Christians, moved by the wonderful success of the Moslem arms, abandoneil their religion ami accepted Islam. Some preferred to pay the poll-tax and retain their faith. Others, Hke the Najranites, in spite of the promise of Mohammed that they sliould Ix! undisturbed, were forced to leave .Xrabia and settled partly in S\Tia and partly near Kufa, in lower Mesopotamia (^fuir, Historj' of the Caliphate, 155; and Arnold, Preaching of Islam, 44 sqq.).