Page images

footing in Táíf which he subsequently effected in Medina ; his sagacious mind clearly perceiving the advantages of a point d'appui ; but he was dismissed with some contempt. If,” said the Táífian chieftain, “ thou art indeed the Apostle of God, we are not worthy to converse with thee : if thou speakest falsely, we waste our time in addressing thee.” This city was now, however, compelled, after some resistance, to yield to the prophet-victor; the Hawázenites were taken captive; their chief embraced Islám ; and they were dismissed with the forfeiture of their goods. The apostle hereupon, with consummate art, resolved to convince by bribes those brave men whom he could not fully bend by force; and he divided a great portion of the rich booty amongst that very Abú Sufián,* and the other Meccan Koraish, who had so lately displayed such distaste and disaffection to his recent authority. He left Mecca soon after, on his return to Medína, appointing, as governor of the latter city, a youth, nephew of Abú Sufián, and at the same time selecting Moáwiyah, son of Abú Sufián, and a man of consummate abilities, to be his secretary, and writer of the Korán. We hear no more of the race of Umaiyah, but as confirmed professors of Islám, although

See Nate.

He ex

generally but lax observers of its required duties, and scanty partakers in its peculiar prejudices.

Jealousies soon arose respecting Ali. When the prophet set off on his unfortunate expedition into Syria, he left Ali at Medina. It is (said some) that he may not be a burden; probably alluding to Ali's love of ease. Ali complaining of this, the prophet said, No; I leave thee as my vicar; but be content to be the Aaron to Moses ; for no prophet shall there be after me. pressed a similar sentiment to Abú Bekr, who, upon setting out with a message from the prophet to Mecca, said, O Apostle of God ! will any divine revelation be made from God to me? By no means, replied the latter. No divine command shall arrive unto me, which shall not be published either by me, or by some man from me. Be content, Abú Bekr, that you were with me in the cave, and were my comrade at the fish-pool. I am content, replied Abú Bekr. It was probably some feeling of jealousy on the part of Alí or Ayesha, which, during the prophet's last illness, interrupted his design of writing a final book.

The apprehensions of Muhammad respecting rival prophets were verified during the latter period of his life. Musailama and Al Aswad (the latter of whom gained over the greater portion of Arabia Felix) both asserted the prophetical cha

racter. Al Aswad was slain whilst the prophet was upon his death-bed; but it was only by the prompt and vigorous exertions of Abu Bekr and Ali that the faction of the former was entirely suppressed.

May we not trace, in these brief notices, somewhat of the effects of a fixed and settled design, acting upon the spirit of clanship, interest, and fear ? Can we not even detect an artful system of fraud gradually initiating others into its mysteries, and admitting them to share its benefits? But then this fraud and this design were employed in guiding towards a desired direction a current of feeling and prejudice which previously prevailed. Many an Arab would acknowledge the probability of the mission of some Arab prophet. To take the next step, and to allow Muhammad to be that prophet, he was either allured or compelled. It would seem almost probable that Muhammad scarcely obtained a convert who can be called, in the strict sense of the word, sincere. In truth, Muhammad himself appears to have vacillated in the details of his plan. The Korán is full of hesitation,* retraction, and evasion. He modified his system when expediency or conciliation required; but we are

* See note.

ignorant of the precise nature of his original design. We know, however, that if that design ever included the aggrandisement of his own family, it did not entirely succeed : his immediate successors appear to have been little more than ecclesiastical republican chiefs; and when a more extensive authority was established, it was in the person of Moawiyah, a man whose conduct displayed so entire an insincerity in religious belief, and so much contempt for such of the prophet's family who were neither ambitious nor able, as to incur the suspicion and dislike even of the ignorant fanatics he governed, and, by outrunning the reigning spirit, laid the foundation of the future re-action which dethroned his race. Perhaps Muhammad was a nice judge of character, and knew well whom to admit into his mysterious councils and deeply-laid plans : he may have perceived that no one, even of his own family, would long continue to wield his dominion, unless he possessed the capacity to understand, and the skill to maintain, those arts by which it was at first constructed.* However this be, there is little doubt that the more we investigate the subject, the more we shall be inclined to believe that Muhammad fired a train already laid, and at

* See note.


a favourable crisis aroused a grand re-action of the Asiatic or Semitic principle, more especially as it existed among the Terahite and Ishmaëlite

The world has twice or thrice arrived at a crisis which has terminated by the direction of the Supreme Ruler in some extraordinary change. At the time when the great Author of Christianity appeared, such a crisis had arrived : * the world was ripe for change. Had no divine revelation then existed, it is not at all to be imagined that this spirit of change would have originated a better system of religion and morals than then prevailed. On the contrary, the fraudful mysteries of the later Heathen philosophy exhibit far darker spells—the elaborate wickedness of seared and reprobate minds—than can be traced in the lighter superstitions of early mythology. The preparedness of the world, however, for some alteration, was remarked by the early Christians and the heathen sophists; the latter of whom probably invented the tale which represents Apollonius Tyaneus as lamenting his hard fate in having lived after Christ, instead of before him ; but for which the world would have obeyed another master, and followed his doctrines. If, then, we may be allowed to speculate upon the

See note.

« PreviousContinue »