Abbildungen der Seite

of Mahomet. We have even a suspicion that, rated, were the speculative elements and to many the fact will appear incredible. tendencies that were diffused through the Atheism, we are told by some of our modern Arabian atmosphere at the time when Matheorists—the spirit, in other words, that homet began to breathe it. These were the prescribes the resolute non-recognition of the influences to which, till his manhood, he was supernatural as the highest effort of rational necessarily subjected. Nothing is more clear excellence, and that, chalking on the doors than that the forces which operated on the of the grand questions of God and Immor- future Prophet were exclusively those that tality, the peremptory phrase “ No data,

No data,” | the soil of Arabia supplied. There is, inwould drag back the soul to earthly task- deed, a story, that in his boyhood he accomwork and earthly pleasures—this spirit, we panied his uncle, Abu Thaleb, in a caravanare told, is the latest result of human expe- expedition from Mecca, along the borders of rience; the calm and equable state of mind the Red Sea, as far as Bostra in Syria ; and into which the human race, long harrassed that at Bostra a Nestorian monk, or priest by infinite problems, is only now beginning called Sergius, took great interest in him, to work itself in some favored spots of


him lessons in the principles of Western Europe. But it is not so—it is not Christian religion. And certainly, if there so. This occidental and nineteenth century was any country besides Arabia from which thing called Atheism has, in its essence, ex

Mahomet derived hints and impressions, it isted in all



the so-called was Syria ; a country more closely connected Shemitic races, the characteristic of whose with Arabia than any other, and which his very speech is, and always has been, a sur- mercantile persuits must have led him even charge of " the religious idea,” the spirit of frequently to visit. But the fact is, that in unbelief and Sadduceeism prevailed like a returning from such visits Mahomet could venom. “The fool hath said in his heart, bring very little with him in the shape of inThere is no God," said the Hebrew psalmist; tellectual material that Arabia might not itthat is to say, there were Hebrew Atheists self have furnished. During his journeys to in the days of David. And that there were and from Syria, however, as well as during ancient Arabic Atheists too-men who, his journeys southward and eastward across amid all the Kaaba-worship of Mecca and its the peninsula, he necessarily picked up much neighborhood, cherished the cold theory, that Mecca could hardly have given him. that behind the grass, and the earth, and the Scenes, for example, seen during such jourclouds, and all the apparent show and para. neys, would haunt his memory afterward, phernalia of life, there was actually and and legends first heard amid such scenes literally Nothing, and that all was but a would not be easily forgotten. Mahomet had chance-spun cob-web over the pit of dissolu- doubtless crossed the very track of the Istion: this every page of the Koran ought to raelites on their return from Egypt; had make clear. They say, After we shall gazed across the Red Sea at the spot pointed have become bones and dust, shall we surely out by tradition as the place of their pasbe raised new creatures ?” “They will say, sage; and, walking perchance by the watchWho will restore us to life ?” They swear fire amid his sleeping camels in the valley of most solemnly by God, saying, God will not Sinai, had seen the stars rise and set behind raise the dead.” Such are the incessant allu- the mount of thunders.' But all this was sions of Mahomet in his book; proving, at Arabic. Arabia bounded his views. That least, that many of his countrymen, even Syria formed part of a large monarchy callwhile talking the language of Theism, swear-ed the Greek or Eastern Empire, the capital ing the oaths of Arabia, and trembling to all of which was Constantinople, and that bethe Arabic superstitions regarding the pre- yond Arabia, on the other side, was a great sent life, were infected with a speculative Persian Monarchy, were facts which he Sadduceesism, equivalent, in fact, to a total could not but know; but of the great Medrejection of the supernatural. Mahomet in iterranean world that lay beyond Syria, his youth, must have listened to such Sad- and of all that under the name of Greek and ducees discussing their theory of No data Roman history had been transacted there, as with regard to the Resurrection, and may well as of the vast Asiatic regions that Perhave shuddered at the daring wit with which sia commanded, he can hardly have had even they announced their Epicurean conclusion, the faintest conception. The Shemitic area that it would be best to make sure of Para- was the only part of the earth that he disdise in this life.

tinctly recognized as existing ; and the events Such, so far as they can now be enume- that had occurred on that area were all history to him. A vast peninsula of peopled critics would have pronounced absolutely herock, turf, and desert, shut in somehow from retical and irrational. Like the other men of the shadowy regions that begirt it, and over Koreish, his relatives, he regularly attended this peninsula a familiar canopy of changing the ceremonies and festivals of the Kaaba, sky—such was the world of Mahomet, such and complied with all the other practices of the universe of his thoughts and impressions, the established Polytheism. Nevertheless, such the limits within which his soul could under all this a struggle was going on as expatiate.

terrible and as protracted, we doubt not, in In his twenty-fifth year, Mahomet ex- the mind of Mahomet, as any that even these changed the service of his uncle for that of a days of ours, so different in all other respects, rich widow of Mecca, named Kadijah. For would be able to exhibit. Looking back as we three years he conducted her affairs as her do upon the men and events of the past from steward or factor, making several journeys a distance, and viewing each life and each in her behalf to Syria, to Yemen, and to transaction therein contained as a small comother parts of Arabia. Grateful to him for pleted whole, which we can neither approve the skill and faithfulness with which he dis- or condemn at a glance, we are apt to forget charged his trust, as well as touched more that in its actual march and evolution, the tenderly by his other merits, she at length past was as slow and heavy as the present; made her wealth his own by marrying him. that each minute then fell as deliberately At the date of their marriage Mahomet was from Time's hammer on the bowl of brass, twenty-eight years of age; Kadijah, who and was as full of pain or joy as minutes had had two husbands before, was forty. are now; and that the lives, therefore, that

During the twelve years that followed his we examine so lightly as perfected historic marriage with Kadijah, we are to imagine results, were all produced and put together Mahomet a wealthy Arab, living chiefly in by the very process we ourselves are now Mecca, one of the most influential men of pursuing, namely, by an infinite series of the tribe of Koreish, and the proprietor of small advances through a medium of circumnumerous camels and herds of cattle. He stances. In the life of Mahomet, for examwas likewise the father of a family ; four ple, there must have been some minute of daughters, besides a son that died when an first deviation from the polytheistic mode of infant, having been born to him by Kadijah. thinking in which he had been educatedThe Meccans, recognizing him as a man of some minute when, walking round the Kaaba his word, always upright in his dealings, in a clear and critical mood, the assiduous named him Al Amin, or The Faithful, and genuflexions of some fat and too prominent used to consult him in their disputes; and Arab may have shot ridicule to his heart, when the Kaaba, having been injured by and brought contempt to his lip; some fire, was repaired, it was a matter of course minute, again, when a powerful word from a that he should take part in the ceremony of Nestorian monk may have roused and startreplacing the black stone. In short, if we led him; or, finally, some minute when, unconceive distinctly any of the best Arabs der the stars of the desert, nature may have described by Mr. Layard in his book on talked to him with a new and thrilling voice. Nineveh, we shall have a reduced type be- But whencesoever the impulse came, it must fore us of the kind of man that Mahomet have required months and years of ever must have been among his contemporary added stimulus and speculative distraction to Meccans.

produce the result. The sharp end of the But during these twelve years a process wedge may be easily inserted, but it requires was going on in the heart of the Arab that many blows and much violent wrenching his countrymen knew nothing of. From the afterward to split the tree. first he must have been a man of great sa- Although it is impossible to trace, with gacity, vehemence, and determination-an any degree of exactness, the process that Arabic man of genius, seeing more deeply, must have been secretly going on in Maand feeling more intensely, after the Arabic homet's mind long before he announced himmethod, than any other of the Meccans. Up self to the people of Mecca as a prophet, a to bis fortieth year, however, it was not diligent reader of the Koran would be able, noticed that in his character there was any- we think, to divide the mental change, as it thing decidedly abnormal; any craze, eccen- actually happened, into several parts or tricity, or madness, that carried him, strictly stages. For, although the Koran was all

, speaking, out of the common circle of Arabic written after the change was complete, yet ways and customs; anything that Meccan I the particular mood or state of conviction in which that book opens, and in which, in fact, with the wind and the stars, and far from the it is more or less monotonously kept up bustle and the lights of Mecca. throughout, serves, more particularly when By his marriage with Kadijah, tradition viewed in connection with the known'state of informs us, Mahomet became acquainted Arabia at the time, as a kind of retrospective with an Arab, named Waraka, the nephew index of the speculative route that must have of Kadijah, who in the course of an erratic been pursued in order to reach it. That is to career had passed successively through Jusay, taking the state of conviction promulga- daism and Christianity, without having found ted in the Koran as the goal that was ulti- a resting-place in either. What influence mately reached by Mahomet, our knowledge the conversation of this man, who is said to of human nature generally, and of the vari- have been well acquainted with the Old and ous elements and tendencies at work in the New Testaments, may have exerted over Arabia at the time, ought to enable us to Mahomet, cannot be determined ; it is exguess, with some certainty, by what sceptical tremely probable, however, that the contact highway that goal was arrived at.

of so restless a spirit, bringing more home to And first of all, it is clear Mahomet must Mahomet the fact of the religious anarchy have been by nature of a profound and rev- prevailing among his country men, may have erent disposition, a man not capable of sett- determined him to follow out to the uttering questions about the supernatural and most his own spiritual bent, with a view to man's destiny carelessly aside, or of perfunct- arrive at a conclusion capable of being stated orily discharging a few established rites, and and promulgated. If so, and indeed whethgoing through life with ease: but incessant- er it were so or not, the first step that he ly gnawed by cravings after knowledge, and would feel it incumbent upon him to take, bent on problems too high for human solu- would be to separate himself from the idolation. Even among the Arabs, surcharged as trous portion of his countrymen, to protest their temperament is with the tendency to at least against that element of Arabian ward the ideal and the wonderful, Mahomet thought and practice. For, by whatever immust have been a recognized transcenden- pulse or at whatever point, the process of talist and dreamer. While a Polytheist, his mental change was begun, this, the negapolytheism must have been abject and enthu- tion, namely, of the grosser portions of Polysiastic, a hundred times more vehement than theism, would infallibly be its first considerthat of his fellows; and from the moment able result. In the following passage of the when a germ of doubt was implanted into Koran, where Mahomet narrates with evithe midst of his till then implicit faith, his dent delight an old legend of Abraham's restruggles either to extirpate it or force it to volt from the faith of his idolatrous forefathits utmost manifestations, must have been ers, he may be supposed to picture retroresolute and unceasing. This hypothesis of spectively his own state of mind at this crian inordinate earnestness and melancholy in sis of his change. the character of Mahomet from the first, is absolutely inevitable. During the whole pe

“Remember when Abraham said unto his fathriod of his mental change, say his Arabic bi

er and his people, what are these images to ographers, it was his custom frequently to

which ye are so entirely devoted ? They an

swered," "We found our fathers worshiping withdraw from Mecca, and to live days and

them.”—He said. “Verily both ye and your fathnights together in a cave in Mount Hara,

ers have been in manifest error.' They said, about nine miles from the town, spending the • Dost thou seriously tell us the truth; or art time in prayer and meditation. In this there thou one who jestest with us?' He replied, was, by no means, such eccentricity as would Verily your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and be implied in similar behavior amongst our

the earth ; it is he who hath created them; and selves. The practice of withdrawing into the

I am one of those who bear witness thereof. By

God, I will surely devise a plot against your idols, solitude of the desert was doubtless common

after ye shall have retired from them and shall enough among the devout Arabians, wheth- have turned your backs. And in the people's er Christian or Pagan, as indeed it is con- absence he went into the temple where the idols genial with Eastern habits and with an East- stood, and he brake them all in pieces, except the ern climate; and probably all that was re- bigest of them; that they might lay the blame markable in Mahomet's case, was the extra

upon that. And when they were returned and ordinary extent to which he carried the prac- · Who hath done this to our gods? He is cer

saw the havoc which had been made, they said, tice. The whole month of Ramadhan, which tainly an impious person.' And certain of them was the holy month of the Arabians, he used answered, "We heard a young man speak reto spend in bis cave on the mountain, alone I proachfully of them; he is named Abraham.'


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

They said, " Bring him therefore before the eyes , tural. Thus, (to add another passage corroof the people that they may bear witness against borative of the fact to those already

quoted,) him.' 'And when he was brought before the as

we read, in the 23d chapter of the Koran, sembly, they said unto him, “ Hast thou done this unto our gods, 0 Abraham ? He answered, these words :—“The unbelieving Meccans Nay, that biggest of them hath done it: but ask say, as their predecessors said, they say, them if they can speak.' They said, “Verily When we shall be dead, and shall have bethou knowest that they speak not.' Abraham come dust and bones, shall we really be answered, “Do ye therefore worship, besides God, raised to life? We have already been that which cannot profit you at all, neither can it threatened with this, and our fathers also, hurt you ? Fie on you, and on that which ye heretofore; this is nothing but fables of the worship besides God”'--Koran (Sale's Transla

ancients. tion,) chap. 21.

And again, in the same chap

ter, the chiefs of the Meccaus are made to At that moment of his life, whenever it say, “ Doth he (Mahomet) threaten you that was, when Mahomet had fully realized the after ye shall be dead, and shall become dust feeling here described, and experienced the and bones, ye shall be brought forth alive iconoclastic fury rise within him against the from your graves ? Away, away, with this gods of the Kaaba, at that moment he bad that ye are threatened with!

There is no worked himself thoroughly clear of the pre- other life beside our present life; we die and ponderant element in the anarchy that Ara- we live, and we shall not be raised again.” bia then lay under, and placed himself, at Nothing has struck us more in the Koran least tacitly, on the side of the non-conform- than these and similar passages. They show, ing factions. For, taking his stand, as he as we have said before, that there has been was obliged to do in this protest against idol- a vein, if not of literal and articulate atry, on that great Monotheistic principle, Atheism, at least of that Sadduceeism that which, after all, did slumber vaguely in the is akin to it, through all history; that the minds of even the idolatrous Arabs, as in affirmation of “ No data” respecting questhe minds of all men of the Shemitic race, tions of the supernatural was rife even among he necessarily found himself at that moment the Shemitic Arabs, whose daily language on the same platform with the Arabic Jews was actually viscid with nouns and adjectives and the Arabic Christians. Affirming the relating to the Deity and his doings; and principle which both these sects of his that this affirmation was deduced, as it usucountrymen inscribed so broadly and conspi- ally is, by men who are fond of repeating it, cuously on their respective banners, nay, into a justification of practical immorality borrowing their words in his own expressions and license. of it, he could not but feel a sympathy with Now, it is evident, we think, that Mahothem of the strongest kind. Accordingly, met, in his recoil from the idolatry of the never, even during his subsequent controver- mass of nis countrymen, reached even his, sies with them, did he lose his respect for the the negative pole of Arabic opinion,“people of the book.” But Mahomet did reached it, at least, by a temporary effort of not rest in the first stage of his change. It intellect, so as to be able ever afterward to was not decreed that he should be either a imagine life as it appeared when projected Jew or a Christian. For, from that slight from that point of view. This we infer and temporary hold which he had taken of from the extraordinary clearness and justness the Monotheistic principle in his resolute an- of his delineations of what may be called tagonism to idolatry, a new flood of excite- the Shemitic variety of Atheistic mood. ment was to carry him once more away into And from the strength and frequency of his strange latitudes of unbelief; and although references to that mood, from the incessant he did at length recover the principle, and energy with which he does battle against it, cling to it as a standard, it was after such a we would infer, also, that it was out of the course of tossing, and in the midst of such portal of this virulent Arabian scepticism, new circumstances, that he and Christianity more directly and immediately than out of stood forever dissociated.

the portal of mere Polytheism and Idolatry, We have already pointed out that, in con- that he issued finally in his character of junction and intermixture with the Idolatry, Prophet. There was a sufficient basis of the corrupt Judaism, and the debased Monotheistic feelings in the heart of the Christianity that possessed the Arabian soil, Koreish itself from which to denounce the there existed a large amount of positive and i absurdities of the Polytheistic worship; but dogmatic Sadduceeism, disbelief of any effi- that for which, according to Mahomet's view cient relation between man and the superna- of the case, all Arabia did not supply a powerful enough antidote, was the inveterate tinguished it in his own mind, and what a spirit of Infidelity and Sadduceeism that blaze of Theistic enthusiasm he bad enkinpervaded all, and lay beneath all. In Poly- dled there instead, is proved by the incestheistic Arabia then, as in Christian Europe sant iterations throughout the Koran of all now, the majority of men had absolutely forms and modes of the Theistic argument. forgotten that God existed.

Even that How strikingly, for example, are the omnibroadest and most naked of all religious be- presence of God and His indissoluble inliefs—the belief in a supernatural justice, timacy with the world 'He had made, proand in some tremendous relation between it claimed in the following passage :and man-had died out and disappeared. Then, as now, men were going about their “Wherefore glorify God when the evening business, rising in the morning and lying overtaketh you, and when ye rise in the morning down in the evening, ploughing, building, and unto Him be praise in heaven and earth; and eating, drinking, performing all the manifold eth forth the living out of the dead, and He bring

at sunset, and when ye rest at noon. He bring processes and functions of life; yet denying eth forth the dead out of the living; and He quickall the while the very existence of the ele- enethe the earth after it had been dead : and in ment over which they floated.

As the sea

like manner shall ye be brought forth from your is round a ship, so does the supernatural graves. Of His signs, one is that He hath created surround the present life; nay, as the very you of dust; and behold, ye are become men nature and idea of a ship is, that it may spread over the face of the earth. And of His move in the sea ; so it is only with reference

signs another is that He hath created for you out to the unseen and eternal that this life and and hath put love and compassion between you :

of yourselves wives that ye may live with them, its arrangements can have any meaning. verily, herein are signs unto people who consider. But then, as now, men had forgotten this. And of His signs are also the creation of the “Let us work and enjoy ourselves while we heavens and the earth, and the variety of your may ; let us conduct ourselves according to languages, and of your complexions : verily, the necessities and relations of the life that herein are signs to men of understanding. And is :" such, after their special Arabic form of of His signs are your sleeping by night and by phrase, was the motto of the sceptical Arabs of His abundance : verily, herein are signs unto

day, and your seeking to provide for yourselves of the days of Mahomet, as it is of many of men who hearken. Of His signs others are that the teachers of our own generation. O worse He showeth you the lightning to strike terror and than folly ! as ile on the principle of navi- to give hope of rain, and that He sendeth down gating only according to the internal neces- water from heaven, and quickeneth thereby the sities of the ship, sailors were to steer with earth after it hath been dead: verily, herein are out reference to the sea !

signs unto people who understand. And of His How Mahomet discussed this question and the earth stand firm at His command : here

signs this also is one, namely, that the heaven with himself, and to what extent he may after, when He shall call you out of the earth at have been indebted for the assurance of his one summons, behold, ye shall come forth.”conclusions to the influence of Christian doc- Koran, (Sale's Translation) chap. 30. trine and phraseology, cannot now be ascertained ; it is abundantly clear, however, that Such, repeated a thousand times in the he did succeed in attaining to a firm and un- Koran, is Mahomet's summary of what he alterable conviction in the great truth of Nat- considered the evidence of Islamism. When ural Theism—the relation of man to a Su- asked for miracles in proof of his mission, he preme

and Transcendent Justice. Probably invariably made this or some similar enuin no Pagan soul that ever lived, was this meration of the signs of God in creationfaith so real, so rampant, as in that of Ma- " these were signs to people that could unhomet. If ever he had acquiesced for a mo

derstand.” In short, recognizing as existing ment in the Sadduceeism of his countrymen, in his own day one peculiarly Arabic form of and accepted the cold hypothesis of the ab. the eternal antagonism between belief and soluteness of the present life, ultimately, at unbelief, between the theory of God everyleast, he reached a point whence he looked where and the theory of God nowhere, bedown upon that hypothesis as the most tween the theory of everything miraculous wretched and damnable of human delusions, and the theory of nothing miraculous, MaTo assail Sadduceeism, to laugh at it, to homet resolutely flung himself into the battle trample it under foot, to bruise it out of men, on the side of “the faith.” The following even to kill those that would persist in it, - extracts from the Koran will show with what

uch was the work that Mahomet set to him- special points of the great Theistic conviction self. With what completeness he had ex

his own soul had learnt to be most familiar,

« ZurückWeiter »