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Mohammed And Mohammedanism








Source: Sacred Books Of The East


By Thomas Carlyle


From the first rude times of Paganism among the Scandinavians in the
North, we advance to a very different epoch of religion, among a very
different people: Mohammedanism among the Arabs. A great change; what a
change and progress is indicated here, in the universal condition and
thoughts of men!

The Hero is not now regarded as a God among his fellow-men; but as one
God-inspired, as a Prophet. It is the second phasis of Hero-worship: the
first or oldest, we may say, has passed away without return; in the
history of the world there will not again be any man, never so great,
whom his fellow-men will take for a god. Nay we might rationally ask,
Did any set of human beings ever really think the man they _saw_ there
standing beside them a god, the maker of this world? Perhaps not: it was
usually some man they remembered, or _had_ seen. But neither can this
any more be. The Great Man is not recognized henceforth as a god any
more.

It was a rude gross error, that of counting the Great Man a god. Yet let
us say that it is at all times difficult to know _what_ he is, or how to
account of him and receive him! The most significant feature in the
history of an epoch is the manner it has of welcoming a Great Man. Ever,
to the true instincts of men, there is something godlike in him. Whether
they shall take him to be a god, to be a prophet, or what they shall
take him to be? that is ever a grand question; by their way of answering
that, we shall see, as through a little window, into the very heart of
these men's spiritual condition. For at bottom the Great Man, as he
comes from the hand of Nature, is ever the same kind of thing: Odin,
Luther, Johnson, Burns; I hope to make it appear that these are all
originally of one stuff; that only by the world's reception of them, and
the shapes they assume, are they so immeasurably diverse. The worship of
Odin astonishes us,--to fall prostrate before the Great Man, into
_deliquium_ of love and wonder over him, and feel in their hearts that
he was a denizen of the skies, a god! This was imperfect enough: but to
welcome, for example, a Burns as we did, was that what we can call
perfect? The most precious gift that Heaven can give to the Earth; a man
of "genius" as we call it; the Soul of a Man actually sent down from the
skies with a God's-message to us,--this we waste away as an idle
artificial firework, sent to amuse us a little, and sink it into ashes,
wreck, and ineffectuality: _such_ reception of a Great Man I do not call
very perfect either! Looking into the heart of the thing, one may
perhaps call that of Burns a still uglier phenomenon, betokening still
sadder imperfections in mankind's ways, than the Scandinavian method
itself! To fall into mere unreasoning _deliquium_ of love and
admiration, was not good; but such unreasoning, nay irrational
supercilious no-love at all is perhaps still worse!--It is a thing
forever changing, this of Hero-worship: different in each age, difficult
to do well in any age. Indeed, the heart of the whole business of the
age, one may say, is to do it well.

We have chosen Mohammed not as the most eminent Prophet; but as the one
we are freest to speak of. He is by no means the truest of Prophets; but
I do esteem him a true one. Further, as there is no danger of our
becoming, any of us, Mohammedans, I mean to say all the good of him I
justly can. It is the way to get at his secret: let us try to understand
what _he_ meant with the world; what the world meant and means with him,
will then be a more answerable question. Our current hypothesis about
Mohammed, that he was a scheming Impostor, a Falsehood incarnate, that
his religion is a mere mass of quackery and fatuity, begins really to be
now untenable to any one. The lies, which well-meaning zeal has heaped
round this man, are disgraceful to ourselves only. When Pococke inquired
of Grotius where the proof was of that story of the pigeon, trained to
pick peas from Mohammed's ear, and pass for an angel dictating to him,
Grotius answered that there was no proof! It is really time to dismiss
all that. The word this man spoke has been the life-guidance now of a
hundred-and-eighty millions of men these twelve-hundred years. These
hundred-and-eighty millions were made by God as well as we. A greater
number of God's creatures believe in Mohammed's word at this hour than
in any other word whatever. Are we to suppose that it was a miserable
piece of spiritual legerdemain, this which so many creatures of the
Almighty have lived by and died by? I, for my part, cannot form any such
supposition. I will believe most things sooner than that. One would be
entirely at a loss what to think of this world at all, if quackery so
grew and were sanctioned here.

Alas, such theories are very lamentable. If we would attain to knowledge
of anything in God's true Creation, let us disbelieve them wholly! They
are the product of an Age of Scepticism; they indicate the saddest
spiritual paralysis, and mere death-life of the souls of men: more
godless theory, I think, was never promulgated in this Earth. A false
man found a religion? Why, a false man cannot build a brick house! If he
do not know and follow _truly_ the properties of mortar, burnt clay and
what else he works in, it is no house that he makes, but a rubbish-heap.
It will not stand for twelve centuries, to lodge a hundred-and-eighty
millions; it will fall straightway. A man must conform himself to
Nature's laws, _be_ verily in communion with Nature and the truth of
things, or Nature will answer him, No, not at all! Speciosities are
specious--ah me!--a Cagliostro, many Cagliostros, prominent
world-leaders, do prosper by their quackery, for a day. It is like a
forged bank-note; they get it passed out of _their_ worthless hands:
others, not they, have to smart for it. Nature bursts-up in fire-flames,
French Revolutions and suchlike, proclaiming with terrible veracity that
forged notes are forged.

But of a Great Man especially, of him I will venture to assert that it
is incredible he should have been other than true. It seems to me the
primary foundation of him, and of all that can lie in him, this. No
Mirabeau, Napoleon, Burns, Cromwell, no man adequate to do anything, but
is first of all in right earnest about it; what I call a sincere man. I
should say _sincerity_, a deep, great, genuine sincerity, is the first
characteristic of all men in any way heroic. Not the sincerity that
calls itself sincere; ah no, that is a very poor matter indeed;--a
shallow braggart conscious sincerity; oftenest self-conceit mainly. The
Great Man's sincerity is of the kind he cannot speak of, is not
conscious of; nay, I suppose, he is conscious rather of _in_sincerity;
for what man can walk accurately by the law of truth for one day? No,
the Great Man does not boast himself sincere, far from that; perhaps
does not ask himself if he is so: I would say rather, his sincerity does
not depend on himself; he cannot help being sincere! The great Fact of
Existence is great to him. Fly as he will, he cannot get out of the
awful presence of this Reality. His mind is so made; he is great by
that, first of all. Fearful and wonderful, real as Life, real as Death,
is this Universe to him. Though all men should forget its truth, and
walk in a vain show, he cannot. At all moments the Flame-image glares-in
upon him; undeniable, there, there!--I wish you to take this as my
primary definition of a Great Man. A little man may have this, it is
competent to all men that God has made: but a Great Man cannot be
without it.

Such a man is what we call an _original_ man; he comes to us at
first-hand. A messenger he, sent from the Infinite Unknown with tidings
to us. We may call him Poet, Prophet, God;--in one way or other, we all
feel that the words he utters are as no other man's words. Direct from
the Inner Fact of things:--he lives, and has to live, in daily communion
with that. Hearsays cannot hide it from him; he is blind, homeless,
miserable, following hearsays; _it_ glares-in upon him. Really his
utterances, are they not a kind of "revelation";--what we must call such
for want of other name? It is from the heart of the world that he comes;
he is portion of the primal reality of things. God has made many
revelations: but this man too, has not God made him, the latest and
newest of all? The "inspiration of the Almighty giveth _him_
understanding": we must listen before all to him.

This Mohammed, then, we will in no wise consider as an Inanity and
Theatricality, a poor conscious ambitious schemer; we cannot conceive
him so. The rude message he delivered was a real one withal; an earnest
confused voice from the unknown Deep. The man's words were not false,
nor his workings here below; no Inanity and Simulacrum; a fiery mass of
Life cast-up from the great bosom of Nature herself. To _kindle_ the
world; the world's Maker had ordered it so. Neither can the faults,
imperfections, insincerities even, of Mohammed, if such were never so
well proved against him, shake this primary fact about him.

On the whole, we make too much of faults; the details of the business
hide the real centre of it. Faults? The greatest of faults, I should
say, is to be conscious of none. Readers of the Bible above all, one
would think, might know better. Who is called there "the man according
to God's own heart"? David, the Hebrew King, had fallen into sins
enough; blackest crimes; there was no want of sins. And thereupon the
unbelievers sneer and ask, Is this your man according to God's heart?
The sneer, I must say, seems to me but a shallow one. What are faults,
what are the outward details of a life; if the inner secret of it, the
remorse, temptations, true, often-baffled, never-ended struggle of it,
be forgotten? "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Of
all acts, is not, for a man, _repentance_ the most divine? The deadliest
sin, I say, were that same supercilious consciousness of no sin;--that
is death; the heart so conscious is divorced from sincerity, humility,
and fact; is dead: it is "pure" as dead dry sand is pure. David's life
and history, as written for us in those Psalms of his, I consider to be
the truest emblem ever given of a man's moral progress and warfare here
below. All earnest souls will ever discern in it the faithful struggle
of an earnest human soul towards what is good and best. Struggle often
baffled, sore baffled, down as into entire wreck; yet a struggle never
ended; ever, with tears, repentance, true unconquerable purpose, begun
anew. Poor human nature! Is not a man's walking, in truth, always that:
"a succession of falls"? Man can do no other. In this wild element of a
Life, he has to struggle onwards; now fallen, deep-abased; and ever,
with tears, repentance, with bleeding heart, he has to rise again,
struggle again still onwards. That his struggle _be_ a faithful
unconquerable one: that is the question of questions. We will put-up
with many sad details, if the soul of it were true. Details by
themselves will never teach us what it is. I believe we misestimate
Mohammed's faults even as faults: but the secret of him will never be
got by dwelling there. We will leave all this behind us; and assuring
ourselves that he did mean some true thing, ask candidly what it was or
might be.

These Arabs Mohammed was born among are certainly a notable people.
Their country itself is notable; the fit habitation for such a race.
Savage inaccessible rock-mountains, great grim deserts, alternating with
beautiful strips of verdure: wherever water is, there is greenness,
beauty; odoriferous balm-shrubs, date-trees, frankincense-trees.
Consider that wide waste horizon of sand, empty, silent, like a
sand-sea, dividing habitable place from habitable. You are all alone
there, left alone with the Universe; by day a fierce sun blazing down on
it with intolerable radiance; by night the great deep Heaven with its
stars. Such a country is fit for a swift-handed, deep-hearted race of
men. There is something most agile, active, and yet most meditative,
enthusiastic in the Arab character. The Persians are called the French
of the East; we will call the Arabs Oriental Italians. A gifted noble
people; a people of wild strong feelings, and of iron restraint over
these: the characteristic of noblemindedness, of genius. The wild
Bedouin welcomes the stranger to his tent, as one having right to all
that is there; were it his worst enemy, he will slay his foal to treat
him, will serve him with sacred hospitality for three days, will set him
fairly on his way;--and then, by another law as sacred, kill him if he
can. In words too, as in action. They are not a loquacious people,
taciturn rather; but eloquent, gifted when they do speak. An earnest,
truthful kind of men. They are, as we know, of Jewish kindred: but with
that deadly terrible earnestness of the Jews they seem to combine
something graceful, brilliant, which is not Jewish. They had "poetic
contests" among them before the time of Mohammed. Sale says, at Ocadh,
in the South of Arabia, there were yearly fairs, and there, when the
merchandising was done, Poets sang for prizes:--the wild people gathered
to hear that.

One Jewish quality these Arabs manifest; the outcome of many or of all
high qualities: what we may call religiosity. From of old they had been
zealous worshippers, according to their light. They worshipped the
stars, as Sabeans; worshipped many natural objects--recognized them as
symbols, immediate manifestations, of the Maker of Nature. It was wrong;
and yet not wholly wrong. All God's works are still in a sense symbols
of God. Do we not, as I urged, still account it a merit to recognize a
certain inexhaustible significance, "poetic beauty" as we name it, in
all natural objects whatsoever? A man is a poet, and honored, for doing
that, and speaking or singing it--a kind of diluted worship. They had
many Prophets, these Arabs; Teachers each to his tribe, each according
to the light he had. But indeed, have we not from of old the noblest of
proofs, still palpable to every one of us, of what devoutness and
noblemindedness had dwelt in these rustic thoughtful peoples? Biblical
critics seem agreed that our own _Book of Job_ was written in that
region of the world. I call that, apart from all theories about it, one
of the grandest things ever written with pen. One feels, indeed, as if
it were not Hebrew; such a noble universality, different from noble
patriotism or sectarianism, reigns in it. A noble Book; all men's Book!
It is our first, oldest statement of the never-ending Problem,--man's
destiny, and God's ways with him here in this earth. And all in such
free flowing outlines; grand in its sincerity, in its simplicity; in its
epic melody, and repose of reconcilement. There is the seeing eye, the
mildly understanding heart. So _true_ everyway; true eyesight and vision
for all things; material things no less than spiritual: the Horse--"hast
thou clothed his neck with _thunder_?"--he "_laughs_ at the shaking of
the spear!" Such living likenesses were never since drawn. Sublime
sorrow, sublime reconciliation; oldest choral melody as of the heart of
mankind;--so soft, and great; as the summer midnight, as the world with
its seas and stars! There is nothing written, I think, in the Bible or
out of it, of equal literary merit.--

To the idolatrous Arabs one of the most ancient universal objects of
worship was that Black Stone, still kept in the building called Caabah
at Mecca. Diodorus Siculus mentions this Caabah in a way not to be
mistaken, as the oldest, most honored temple in his time; that is, some
half-century before our Era. Silvestre de Sacy says there is some
likelihood that the Black Stone is an aerolite. In that case, some man
might _see_ it fall out of Heaven! It stands now beside the Well Zemzem;
the Caabah is built over both. A Well is in all places a beautiful
affecting object, gushing out like life from the hard earth;--still more
so in those hot dry countries, where it is the first condition of being.
The Well Zemzem has its name from the bubbling sound of the waters,
_zem-zem_; they think it is the Well which Hagar found with her little
Ishmael in the wilderness: the aerolite and it have been sacred now, and
had a Caabah over them, for thousands of years. A curious object, that
Caabah! There it stands at this hour, in the black cloth-covering the
Sultan sends it yearly; "twenty-seven cubits high;" with circuit, with
double circuit of pillars, with festoon rows of lamps and quaint
ornaments: the lamps will be lighted again _this_ night--to glitter
again under the stars. An authentic fragment of the oldest Past. It is
the _Keblah_ of all Moslem: from Delhi all onwards to Morocco, the eyes
of innumerable praying men are turned towards _it_, five times, this day
and all days: one of the notablest centres in the Habitation of Men.

It had been from the sacredness attached to this Caabah Stone and
Hagar's Well, from the pilgrimings of all tribes of Arabs thither, that
Mecca took its rise as a Town. A great town once, though much decayed
now. It has no natural advantage for a town; stands in a sandy hollow
amid bare barren hills, at a distance from the sea; its provisions, its
very bread, have to be imported. But so many pilgrims needed lodgings:
and then all places of pilgrimage do, from the first, become places of
trade. The first day pilgrims meet, merchants have also met: where men
see themselves assembled for one object, they find that they can
accomplish other objects which depend on meeting together. Mecca became
the Fair of all Arabia. And thereby indeed the chief staple and
warehouse of whatever Commerce there was between the Indian and the
Western countries, Syria, Egypt, even Italy. It had at one time a
population of 100,000; buyers, forwarders of those Eastern and Western
products; importers for their own behoof of provisions and corn. The
government was a kind of irregular aristocratic republic, not without a
touch of theocracy. Ten Men of a chief tribe, chosen in some rough way,
were Governors of Mecca, and Keepers of the Caabah. The Koreish were the
chief tribe in Mohammed's time; his own family was of that tribe. The
rest of the Nation, fractioned and cut-asunder by deserts, lived under
similar rude patriarchal governments by one or several: herdsmen,
carriers, traders, generally robbers too; being oftenest at war one with
another, or with all: held together by no open bond, if it were not this
meeting at the Caabah, where all forms of Arab Idolatry assembled in
common adoration;--held mainly by the _inward_ indissoluble bond of a
common blood and language. In this way had the Arabs lived for long
ages, unnoticed by the world; a people of great qualities, unconsciously
waiting for the day when they should become notable to all the world.
Their Idolatries appear to have been in a tottering state; much was
getting into confusion and fermentation among them. Obscure tidings of
the most important Event ever transacted in this world, the Life and
Death of the Divine Man in Judea, at once the symptom and cause of
immeasurable change to all people in the world, had in the course of
centuries reached into Arabia too; and could not but, of itself, have
produced fermentation there.

It was among this Arab people, so circumstanced, in the year 570 of our
Era, that the man Mohammed was born. He was of the family of Hashem, of
the Koreish tribe as we said; though poor, connected with the chief
persons of his country. Almost at his birth he lost his Father; at the
age of six years his Mother too, a woman noted for her beauty, her worth
and sense: he fell to the charge of his Grandfather, an old man, a
hundred years old. A good old man: Mohammed's Father, Abdallah, had been
his youngest favorite son. He saw in Mohammed, with his old life-worn
eyes, a century old, the lost Abdallah come back again, all that was
left of Abdallah. He loved the little orphan Boy greatly; used to say
they must take care of that beautiful little Boy, nothing in their
kindred was more precious than he. At his death, while the boy was still
but two years old, he left him in charge to Abu Thaleb the eldest of the
Uncles, as to him that now was head of the house. By this Uncle, a just
and rational man as everything betokens, Mohammed was brought-up in the
best Arab way.

Mohammed, as he grew up, accompanied his Uncle on trading journeys and
suchlike; in his eighteenth year one finds him a fighter following his
Uncle in war. But perhaps the most significant of all his journeys is
one we find noted as of some years' earlier date: a journey to the Fairs
of Syria. The young man here first came in contact with a quite foreign
world,--with one foreign element of endless moment to him: the Christian
Religion. I know not what to make of that "Sergius, the Nestorian Monk,"
whom Abu Thaleb and he are said to have lodged with; or how much any
monk could have taught one still so young. Probably enough it is greatly
exaggerated, this of the Nestorian Monk. Mohammed was only fourteen; had
no language but his own: much in Syria must have been a strange
unintelligible whirlpool to him. But the eyes of the lad were open;
glimpses of many things would doubtless be taken-in, and lie very
enigmatic as yet, which were to ripen in a strange way into views, into
beliefs and insights one day. These journeys to Syria were probably the
beginning of much to Mohammed.

One other circumstance we must not forget: that he had no
school-learning; of the thing we call school-learning none at all. The
art of writing was but just introduced into Arabia; it seems to be the
true opinion that Mohammed never could write! Life in the Desert, with
its experiences, was all his education. What of this infinite Universe
he, from his dim place, with his own eyes and thoughts, could take in,
so much and no more of it was he to know. Curious, if we will reflect on
it, this of having no books. Except by what he could see for himself, or
hear of by uncertain rumor of speech in the obscure Arabian Desert, he
could know nothing. The wisdom that had been before him or at a distance
from him in the world, was in a manner as good as not there for him. Of
the great brother souls, flame-beacons through so many lands and times,
no one directly communicates with this great soul. He is alone there,
deep down in the bosom of the Wilderness; has to grow up so,--alone with
Nature and his own Thoughts.

But, from an early age, he had been remarked as a thoughtful man. His
companions named him "_Al Amin_, the Faithful." A man of truth and
fidelity; true in what he did, in what he spake and thought. They noted
that _he_ always meant something. A man rather taciturn in speech;
silent when there was nothing to be said; but pertinent, wise, sincere,
when he did speak; always throwing light on the matter. This is the only
sort of speech _worth_ speaking! Through life we find him to have been
regarded as an altogether solid, brotherly, genuine man. A serious,
sincere character; yet amiable, cordial, companionable, jocose even;--a
good laugh in him withal: there are men whose laugh is as untrue as
anything about them; who cannot laugh. One hears of Mohammed's beauty:
his fine sagacious honest face, brown florid complexion, beaming black
eyes;--I somehow like too that vein on the brow, which swelled-up black
when he was in anger: like the "horse-shoe vein" in Scott's
_Red-gauntlet_. It was a kind of feature in the Hashem family, this
black swelling vein in the brow; Mahomet had it prominent, as would
appear. A spontaneous, passionate, yet just, true-meaning man! Full of
wild faculty, fire and light; of wild worth, all uncultured; working out
his life-task in the depths of the Desert there.

How he was placed with Kadijah, a rich Widow, as her Steward, and
travelled in her business, again to the Fairs of Syria; how he managed
all, as one can well understand, with fidelity, adroitness; how her
gratitude, her regard for him grew: the story of their marriage is
altogether a graceful intelligible one, as told us by the Arab authors.
He was twenty-five; she forty, though still beautiful. He seems to have
lived in a most affectionate, peaceable, wholesome way with this wedded
benefactress; loving her truly, and her alone. It goes greatly against
the impostor theory, the fact that he lived in this entirely
unexceptionable, entirely quiet and commonplace way, till the heat of
his years was done. He was forty before he talked of any mission from
Heaven. All his irregularities, real and supposed, date from after his
fiftieth year, when the good Kadijah died. All his "ambition,"
seemingly, had been, hitherto, to live an honest life; his "fame," the
mere good opinion of neighbors that knew him, had been sufficient
hitherto. Not till he was already getting old, the prurient heat of his
life all burnt out, and _peace_ growing to be the chief thing this world
could give him, did he start on the "career of ambition"; and, belying
all his past character and existence, set-up as a wretched empty
charlatan to acquire what he could now no longer enjoy! For my share, I
have no faith whatever in that.

Ah no: this deep-hearted Son of the Wilderness, with his beaming black
eyes and open social deep soul, had other thoughts in him than ambition.
A silent great soul; he was one of those who cannot _but_ be in earnest;
whom Nature herself has appointed to be sincere. While others walk in
formulas and hearsays, contented enough to dwell there, this man could
not screen himself in formulas; he was alone with his own soul and the
reality of things. The great Mystery of Existence, as I said, glared-in
upon him, with its terrors, with its splendors; no hearsays could hide
that unspeakable fact, "Here am I!" Such _sincerity_, as we named it,
has in very truth something of divine. The word of such a man is a Voice
direct from Nature's own Heart. Men do and must listen to that as to
nothing else;--all else is wind in comparison. From of old, a thousand
thoughts, in his pilgrimings and wanderings, had been in this man: What
am I? What _is_ this unfathomable Thing I live in, which men name
Universe? What is Life; what is Death? What am I to believe? What am I
to do? The grim rocks of Mount Hara, of Mount Sinai, the stern sandy
solitudes answered not. The great Heaven rolling silent overhead, with
its blue-glancing stars, answered not. There was no answer. The man's
own soul, and what of God's inspiration dwelt there, had to answer!

It is the thing which all men have to ask themselves; which we too have
to ask, and answer. This wild man felt it to be of _infinite_ moment;
all other things of no moment whatever in comparison. The jargon of
argumentative Greek Sects, vague traditions of Jews, the stupid routine
of Arab Idolatry: there was no answer in these. A Hero, as I repeat, has
this first distinction, which indeed we may call first and last, the
Alpha and Omega of his whole Heroism, that he looks through the shows of
things into _things_. Use and wont, respectable hearsay, respectable
formula: all these are good, or are not good. There is something behind
and beyond all these, which all these must correspond with, be the image
of, or they are--_Idolatries_; "bits of black wood pretending to be
God"; to the earnest soul a mockery and abomination. Idolatries never so
gilded waited on by heads of the Koreish, will do nothing for this man.
Though all men walk by them, what good is it? The great Reality stands
glaring there upon _him_. He there has to answer it, or perish
miserably. Now, even now, or else through all Eternity never! Answer it;
_thou_ must find an answer.--Ambition? What could all Arabia do for this
man; with the crown of Greek Heraclius, of Persian Chosroes, and all
crowns in the Earth;--what could they all do for him? It was not of the
Earth he wanted to hear tell; it was of the Heaven above and of the Hell
beneath. All crowns and sovereignties whatsoever, where would _they_ in
a few brief years be? To be Sheik of Mecca or Arabia, and have a bit of
gilt wood put into your hand,--will that be one's salvation? I decidedly
think, not. We will leave it altogether, this impostor hypothesis, as
not credible; not very tolerable even, worthy chiefly of dismissal by
us.

Mohammed had been wont to retire yearly, during the month Ramadhan, into
solitude and silence; as indeed was the Arab custom; a praiseworthy
custom, which such a man, above all, would find natural and useful.
Communing with his own heart, in the silence of the mountains; himself
silent; open to the "small still voices": it was a right natural custom!
Mohammed was in his fortieth year, when having withdrawn to a cavern in
Mount Hara, near Mecca, during this Ramadhan, to pass the month in
prayer, and meditation on those great questions, he one day told his
wife Kadijah, who with his household was with him or near him this year,
that by the unspeakable special favor of Heaven he had now found it all
out; was in doubt and darkness no longer, but saw it all. That all these
Idols and Formulas were nothing, miserable bits of wood; that there was
One God in and over all; and we must leave all idols, and look to Him.
That God is great; and that there is nothing else great! He is the
Reality. Wooden Idols are not real; He is real. He made us at first,
sustains us yet; we and all things are but the shadow of Him; a
transitory garment veiling the Eternal Splendor. "_Allah akbar_," God is
great;--and then also "_Islam_," that we must _submit_ to God. That our
whole strength lies in resigned submission to Him, whatsoever He do to
us. For this world, and for the other! The thing He sends to us, were it
death and worse than death, shall be good, shall be best; we resign
ourselves to God.--"If this be _Islam_," says Goethe, "do we not all
live in _Islam_?" Yes, all of us that have any moral life; we all live
so. It has ever been held the highest wisdom for a man not merely to
submit to Necessity,--Necessity will make him submit,--but to know and
believe well that the stern thing which Necessity had ordered was the
wisest, the best, the thing wanted there. To cease his frantic
pretension of scanning this great God's-World in his small fraction of a
brain; to know that it _had_ verily, though deep beyond his soundings, a
Just Law, that the soul of it was Good;--that his part in it was to
conform to the Law of the Whole, and in devout silence follow that; not
questioning it, obeying it as unquestionable.

I say, this is yet the only true morality known. A man is right and
invincible, virtuous and on the road towards sure conquest, precisely
while he joins himself to the great deep Law of the World, in spite of
all superficial laws, temporary appearances, profit-and-loss
calculations; he is victorious while he cooeperates with that great
central Law, not victorious otherwise:--and surely his first chance of
cooeperating with it, or getting into the course of it, is to know with
his whole soul that it _is_; that it is good, and alone good! This is
the soul of Islam; it is properly the soul of Christianity;--for Islam
is definable as a confused form of Christianity; had Christianity not
been, neither had it been. Christianity also commands us, before all, to
be resigned to God. We are to take no counsel with flesh-and-blood; give
ear to no vain cavils, vain sorrows and wishes: to know that we know
nothing; that the worst and crudest to our eyes is not what it seems;
that we have to receive whatsoever befalls us as sent from God above,
and say, It is good and wise, God is great! "Though He slay me, yet will
I trust in Him." Islam means in its way Denial of Self, Annihilation of
Self. This is yet the highest Wisdom that Heaven has revealed to our
Earth.

Such light had come, as it could, to illuminate the darkness of this
wild Arab soul. A confused dazzling splendor as of life and Heaven, in
the great darkness which threatened to be death: he called it revelation
and the angel Gabriel;--who of us yet can know what to call it? It is
the "inspiration of the Almighty that giveth us understanding." To
_know_; to get into the truth of anything, is ever a mystic act,--of
which the best Logics can but babble on the surface. "Is not Belief the
true god-announcing Miracle?" says Novalis.--That Mohammed's whole soul,
set in flame with this grand Truth vouchsafed him, should feel as if it
were important and the only important thing, was very natural. That
Providence had unspeakably honored _him_ by revealing it, saving him
from death and darkness; that he therefore was bound to make known the
same to all creatures: this is what was meant by "Mohammed is the
Prophet of God"; this too is not without its true meaning.--

The good Kadijah, we can fancy, listened to him with wonder, with doubt:
at length she answered: Yes, it was _true_ this that he said. One can
fancy too the boundless gratitude of Mohammed; and how of all the
kindnesses she had done him, this of believing the earnest struggling
word he now spoke was the greatest. "It is certain," says Novalis, "my
Conviction gains infinitely, the moment another soul will believe in
it." It is a boundless favor.--He never forgot this good Kadijah. Long
afterwards, Ayesha his young favorite wife, a woman who indeed
distinguished herself among the Moslem, by all manner of qualities,
through her whole long life; this young brilliant Ayesha was, one day,
questioning him: "Now am not I better than Kadijah? She was a widow;
old, and had lost her looks: you love me better than you did her?"--"No,
by Allah!" answered Mohammed: "No, by Allah! She believed in me when
none else would believe. In the whole world I had but one friend, and
she was that!"--Seid, his Slave, also belie ed in him; these with his
young Cousin Ali, Abu Thaleb's son, were his first converts.

He spoke of his Doctrine to this man and that; but the most treated it
with ridicule, with indifference; in three years, I think, he had gained
but thirteen followers. His progress was slow enough. His encouragement
to go on, was altogether the usual encouragement that such a man in such
a case meets. After some three years of small success, he invited forty
of his chief kindred to an entertainment; and there stood-up and told
them what his pretension was: that he had this thing to promulgate
abroad to all men; that it was the highest thing, the one thing: which
of them would second him in that? Amid the doubt and silence of all,
young Ali, as yet a lad of sixteen, impatient of the silence,
started-up, and exclaimed in passionate fierce language that he would!
The assembly, among whom was Abu Thaleb, Ali's Father, could not be
unfriendly to Mohammed; yet the sight there, of one unlettered elderly
man, with a lad of sixteen, deciding on such an enterprise against all
mankind, appeared ridiculous to them; the assembly broke-up in laughter.
Nevertheless it proved not a laughable thing; it was a very serious
thing! As for this young Ali, one cannot but like him. A noble-minded
creature, as he shows himself, now and always afterwards; full of
affection, of fiery daring. Something chivalrous in him; brave as a
lion; yet with a grace, a truth and affection worthy of Christian
knighthood. He died by assassination in the Mosque at Bagdad; a death
occasioned by his own generous fairness, confidence in the fairness of
others: he said if the wound proved not unto death, they must pardon the
Assassin; but if it did, then they must slay him straightway, that so
they two in the same hour might appear before God, and see which side of
that quarrel was the just one!

Mohammed naturally gave offence to the Koreish, Keepers of the Caabah,
superintendents of the Idols. One or two men of influence had joined
him: the thing spread slowly, but it was spreading. Naturally he gave
offence to everybody: Who is this that pretends to be wiser than we all;
that rebukes us all, as mere fools and worshippers of wood! Abu Thaleb
the good Uncle spoke with him: Could he not be silent about all that;
believe it all for himself, and not trouble others, anger the chief men,
endanger himself and them all, talking of it? Mohammed answered: If the
Sun stood on his right hand and the Moon on his left, ordering him to
hold his peace, he could not obey! No: there was something in this Truth
he had got which was of Nature herself; equal in rank to Sun, or Moon,
or whatsoever thing Nature had made. It would speak itself there, so
long as the Almighty allowed it, in spite of Sun and Moon, and all
Koreish and all men and things. It must do that, and could do no other.
Mohammed answered so; and, they say, "burst into tears." Burst into
tears: he felt that Abu Thaleb was good to him; that the task he had got
was no soft, but a stern and great one.

He went on speaking to who would listen to him; publishing his Doctrine
among the pilgrims as they came to Mecca; gaining adherents in this
place and that. Continual contradiction, hatred, open or secret danger
attended him. His powerful relations protected Mohammed himself; but by
and by, on his own advice, all his adherents had to quit Mecca, and seek
refuge in Abyssinia over the sea. The Koreish grew ever angrier; laid
plots, and swore oaths among them, to put Mohammed to death with their
own hands. Abu Thaleb was dead, the good Kadijah was dead. Mohammed is
not solicitous of sympathy from us; but his outlook at this time was one
of the dismallest. He had to hide in caverns, escape in disguise; fly
hither and thither; homeless, in continual peril of his life. More than
once it seemed all-over with him; more than once it turned on a straw,
some rider's horse taking fright or the like, whether Mohammed and his
Doctrine had not ended there, and not been heard of at all. But it was
not to end so.

In the thirteenth year of his mission, finding his enemies all banded
against him, forty sworn men, one out of every tribe, waiting to take
his life, and no continuance possible at Mecca for him any longer,
Mohammed fled to the place then called Yathreb, where he had gained some
adherents; the place they now call Medina, or "_Medinat al Nabi_, the
City of the Prophet," from that circumstance. It lay some 200 miles off,
through rocks and deserts; not without great difficulty, in such mood as
we may fancy, he escaped thither, and found welcome. The whole East
dates its era from this Flight, _Hegira_ as they name it: the Year 1 of
this Hegira is 622 of our Era, the fifty-third of Mohammed's life. He
was now becoming an old man; his friends sinking round him one by one;
his path desolate, encompassed with danger: unless he could find hope in
his own heart, the outward face of things was but hopeless for him. It
is so with all men in the like case. Hitherto Mohammed had professed to
publish his Religion by the way of preaching and persuasion alone. But
now, driven foully out of his native country, since unjust men had not
only given no ear to his earnest Heaven's-message, the deep cry of his
heart, but would not even let him live if he kept speaking it,--the wild
Son of the Desert resolved to defend himself, like a man and Arab. If
the Koreish will have it so, they shall have it. Tidings, felt to be of
infinite moment to them and all men, they would not listen to these;
would trample them down by sheer violence, steel and murder: well, let
steel try it then! Ten years more this Mohammed had; all of fighting, of
breathless impetuous toil and struggle; with what result we know.

Much has been said of Mohammed's propagating his Religion by the sword.
It is no doubt far nobler what we have to boast of the Christian
Religion, that it propagated itself peaceably in the way of preaching
and conviction. Yet withal, if we take this for an argument of the truth
or falsehood of a religion, there is a radical mistake in it. The sword
indeed: but where will you get your sword! Every new opinion, at its
starting, is precisely in a _minority of one_. In one man's head alone,
there it dwells as yet. One man alone of the whole world believes it;
there is one man against all men. That _he_ take a sword, and try to
propagate with that, will do little for him. You must first get your
sword! On the whole, a thing will propagate itself as it can. We do not
find, of the Christian Religion either, that it always disdained the
sword, when once it had got one. Charlemagne's conversion of the Saxons
was not by preaching. I care little about the sword: I will allow a
thing to struggle for itself in this world, with any sword or tongue or
implement it has, or can lay hold of. We will let it preach, and
pamphleteer, and fight, and to the uttermost bestir itself, and do, beak
and claws, whatsoever is in it; very sure that it will, in the long-run,
conquer nothing which does not deserve to be conquered. What is better
than itself, it cannot put away, but only what is worse. In this great
Duel, Nature herself is umpire, and can do no wrong: the thing which is
deepest-rooted in Nature, what we call _truest_, that thing and not the
other will be found growing at last.

Here however, in reference to much that there is in Mohammed and his
success, we are to remember what an umpire Nature is; what a greatness,
composure of depth and tolerance there is in her. You take wheat to cast
into the Earth's bosom: your wheat may be mixed with chaff, chopped
straw, barn-sweepings, dust and all imaginable rubbish; no matter: you
cast it into the kind just Earth; she grows the wheat,--the whole
rubbish she silently absorbs, shrouds _it_ in, says nothing of the
rubbish. The yellow wheat is growing there; the good Earth is silent
about all the rest,--has silently turned all the rest to some benefit
too, and makes no complaint about it! So everywhere in Nature! She is
true and not a lie; and yet so great, and just, and motherly in her
truth. She requires of a thing only that it _be_ genuine of heart; she
will protect it if so; will not, if not so. There is a soul of truth in
all the things she ever gave harbor to. Alas, is not this the history of
all highest Truth that comes or ever came into the world? The _body_ of
them all is imperfection, an element of light _in_ darkness: to us they
have to come embodied in mere Logic, in some merely _scientific_ Theorem
of the Universe; which _cannot_ be complete; which cannot but be found,
one day, incomplete, erroneous, and so die and disappear. The body of
all Truth dies; and yet in all, I say, there is a soul which never dies;
which in new and ever-nobler embodiment lives immortal as man himself!
It is the way with Nature. The genuine essence of Truth never dies. That
it be genuine, a voice from the great Deep of Nature, there is the point
at Nature's judgment-seat. What _we_ call pure or impure, is not with
her the final question. Not how much chaff is in you; but whether you
have any wheat. Pure? I might say to many a man: Yes, you are pure; pure
enough; but you are chaff,--insincere hypothesis, hearsay, formality;
you never were in contact with the great heart of the Universe at all;
you are properly neither pure nor impure; you _are_ nothing, Nature has
no business with you.

Mohammed's Creed we called a kind of Christianity; and really, if we
look at the wild rapt earnestness with which it was believed and laid to
heart, I should say a better kind than that of those miserable Syrian
Sects, with their vain janglings about _Homoiousion_ and _Homoousion_,
the head full of worthless noise, the heart empty and dead! The truth of
it is imbedded in portentous error and falsehood; but the truth of it
makes it be believed, not the falsehood: it succeeded by its truth. A
bastard kind of Christianity, but a living kind; with a heartlife in it;
not dead, chopping barren logic merely! Out of all that rubbish of Arab
idolatries, argumentative theologies, traditions, subtleties, rumors and
hypotheses of Greeks and Jews, with their idle wiredrawings, this wild
man of the Desert, with his wild sincere heart, earnest as death and
life, with his great flashing natural eyesight, had seen into the kernel
of the matter. Idolatry is nothing: these Wooden Idols of yours, "ye rub
them with oil and wax, and the flies stick on them,"--these are wood, I
tell you! They can do nothing for you; they are an impotent blasphemous
pretence; a horror and abomination, if ye knew them. God alone is; God
alone has power; He made us, He can kill us and keep us alive: "_Allah
akbar_, God is great." Understand that His will is the best for you;
that howsoever sore to flesh-and-blood, you will find it the wisest,
best: you are bound to take it so; in this world and in the next, you
have no other thing that you can do!

And now if the wild idolatrous men did believe this, and with their
fiery hearts lay hold of it to do it, in what form soever it came to
them, I say it was well worthy of being believed. In one form or the
other, I say it is still the one thing worthy of being believed by all
men. Man does hereby become the high-priest of this Temple of a World.
He is in harmony with the Decrees of the Author of this World;
cooperating with them, not vainly withstanding them: I know, to this
day, no better definition of Duty than that same. All that is _right_
includes itself in this of cooperating with the real Tendency of the
World: you succeed by this (the World's Tendency will succeed), you are
good, and in the right course there. _Homoiousion, Homoousion_, vain
logical jangle, then or before or at any time, may jangle itself out,
and go whither and how it likes: this is the _thing_ it all struggles to
mean, if it would mean anything. If it do not succeed in meaning this,
it means nothing. Not that Abstractions, logical Propositions, be
correctly worded or incorrectly; but that living concrete Sons of Adam
do lay this to heart: that is the important point. Islam devoured all
these vain jangling Sects; and I think had right to do so. It was a
Reality, direct from the great Heart of Nature once more. Arab
idolatries, Syrian formulas, whatsoever was not equally real, had to go
up in flame,--mere dead _fuel_, in various senses, for this which was
_fire_.

It was during these wild warfarings and strugglings, especially after
the Flight to Mecca, that Mohammed dictated at intervals his Sacred
Book, which they name _Koran_, or _Reading_, "Thing to be read." This is
the Work he and his disciples made so much of, asking all the world, Is
not that a miracle? The Mohammedans regard their Koran with a reverence
which few Christians pay even to their Bible. It is admitted everywhere
as the standard of all law and all practice; the thing to be gone-upon
in speculation and life: the message sent direct out of Heaven, which
this earth has to conform to, and walk by; the thing to be read. Their
Judges decide by it; all Moslem are bound to study it, seek in it for
the light of their life. They have mosques where it is all read daily;
thirty relays of priests take it up in succession, get through the whole
each day. There, for twelve-hundred years, has the voice of this Book,
at all moments, kept sounding through the ears and the hearts of so many
men. We hear of Mohammedan Doctors that had read it seventy-thousand
times!

Very curious: if one sought for "discrepancies of national taste," here
surely were the most eminent instance of that! We also can read the
Koran; our Translation of it, by Sale, is known to be a very fair one. I
must say, it is as toilsome reading as I ever undertook. A wearisome
confused jumble, crude, incondite; endless iterations, long-windedness,
entanglement; most crude, incondite;--insupportable stupidity, in short!
Nothing but a sense of duty could carry any European through the Koran.
We read in it, as we might in the State-Paper Office, unreadable masses
of lumber, that perhaps we may get some glimpses of a remarkable man. It
is true we have it under disadvantages: the Arabs see more method in it
than we. Mohammed's followers found the Koran lying all in fractions, as
it had been written-down at first promulgation; much of it, they say, on
shoulder-blades of mutton flung pell-mell into a chest; and they
published it, without any discoverable order as to time or
otherwise;--merely trying, as would seem, and this not very strictly, to
put the longest chapters first. The real beginning of it, in that way,
lies almost at the end: for the earliest portions were the shortest.
Read in its historical sequence it perhaps would not be so bad. Much of
it, too, they say, is rhythmic; a kind of wild chanting song, in the
original. This may be a great point; much perhaps has been lost in the
Translation here. Yet with every allowance, one feels it difficult to
see how any mortal ever could consider this Koran as a Book written in
Heaven, too good for the Earth; as a well-written book, or indeed as a
_book_ at all; and not a bewildered rhapsody; _written_, so far as
writing goes, as badly as almost any book ever was! So much for national
discrepancies, and the standard of taste.

Yet I should say, it was not unintelligible how the Arabs might so love
it. When once you get this confused coil of a Koran fairly off your
hands, and have it behind you at a distance, the essential type of it
begins to disclose itself; and in this there is a merit quite other than
the literary one. If a book come from the heart, it will contrive to
reach other hearts; all art and authorcraft are of small amount to that.
One would say the primary character of the Koran is this of its
_genuineness_, of its being a _bona-fide_ book. Prideaux, I know, and
others, have represented it as a mere bundle of juggleries; chapter
after chapter got-up to excuse and varnish the author's successive sins,
forward his ambitions and quackeries: but really it is time to dismiss
all that. I do not assert Mohammed's continual sincerity: who is
continually sincere? But I confess I can make nothing of the critic, in
these times, who would accuse him of deceit _prepense_; of conscious
deceit generally, or perhaps at all;--still more, of living in a mere
element of conscious deceit, and writing this Koran as a forger and
juggler would have done! Every candid eye, I think, will read the Koran
far otherwise than so. It is the confused ferment of a great rude human
soul; rude, untutored, that cannot even read; but fervent, earnest,
struggling vehemently to utter itself in words. With a kind of
breathless intensity he strives to utter himself; the thoughts crowd on
him pell-mell: for very multitude of things to say, he can get nothing
said. The meaning that is in him shapes itself into no form of
composition, is stated in no sequence, method, or coherence;--they are
not _shaped_ at all, these thoughts of his; flung-out unshaped, as they
struggle and tumble there, in their chaotic inarticulate state. We said
"stupid": yet natural stupidity is by no means the character of
Mohammed's Book; it is natural un-cultivation rather. The man has not
studied speaking; in the haste and pressure of continual fighting, has
not time to mature himself into fit speech. The panting breathless haste
and vehemence of a man struggling in the thick of battle for life and
salvation; this is the mood he is in! A headlong haste; for very
magnitude of meaning, he cannot get himself articulated into words. The
successive utterances of a soul in that mood, colored by the various
vicissitudes of three-and-twenty years; now well uttered, now worse:
this is the Koran.

For we are to consider Mohammed, through these three-and-twenty years,
as the centre of a world wholly in conflict, Battles with the Koreish
and Heathen, quarrels among his own people, backslidings of his own wild
heart; all this kept him in a perpetual whirl, his soul knowing rest no
more. In wakeful nights, as one may fancy, the wild soul of the man,
tossing amid these vortices, would hail any light of a decision for them
as a veritable light from Heaven; _any_ making-up of his mind, so
blessed, indispensable for him there, would seem the inspiration of a
Gabriel. Forger and juggler? No, no! This great fiery heart, seething,
simmering like a great furnace of thoughts, was not a juggler's. His
life was a Fact to him; this God's Universe an awful Fact and Reality.
He has faults enough. The man was an uncultured semi-barbarous Son of
Nature, much of the Bedouin still clinging to him: we must take him for
that. But for a wretched Simulacrum, a hungry Impostor without eyes or
heart, practising for a mess of pottage such blasphemous swindlery,
forgery of celestial documents, continual high-treason against his Maker
and Self, we will not and cannot take him.

Sincerity, in all senses, seems to me the merit of the Koran; what had
rendered it precious to the wild Arab men. It is, after all, the first
and last merit in a book; gives rise to merits of all kinds,--nay, at
bottom, it alone can give rise to merit of any kind. Curiously, through
these incondite masses of tradition, vituperation, complaint,
ejaculation in the Koran, a vein of true direct insight, of what we
might almost call poetry, is found straggling. The body of the Book is
made up of mere tradition, and as it were vehement enthusiastic
extempore preaching. He returns forever to the old stories of the
Prophets as they went current in the Arab memory: how Prophet after
Prophet, the Prophet Abraham, the Prophet Hud, the Prophet Moses,
Christian and other real and fabulous Prophets, had come to this Tribe
and to that, warning men of their sin; and been received by them even as
he Mohammed was,--which is a great solace to him. These things he
repeats ten, perhaps twenty times; again and ever again, with wearisome
iteration; has never done repeating them. A brave Samuel Johnson, in his
forlorn garret, might con-over the Biographies of Authors in that way!
This is the great staple of the Koran. But curiously, through all this,
comes ever and anon some glance as of the real thinker and seer. He has
actually an eye for the world, this Mohammed: with a certain directness
and rugged vigour, he brings home still, to our heart, the thing his own
heart has been opened to. I make but little of his praises of Allah,
which many praise; they are borrowed I suppose mainly from the Hebrew,
at least they are far surpassed there. But the eye that flashes direct
into the heart of things, and _sees_ the truth of them; this is to me a
highly interesting object. Great Nature's own gift; which she bestows on
all; but which only one in the thousand does not cast sorrowfully away:
it is what I call sincerity of vision; the test of a sincere heart.

Mohammed can work no miracles; he often answers impatiently: I can work
no miracles. I? "I am a Public Preacher"; appointed to preach this
doctrine to all creatures. Yet the world, as we can see, had really from
of old been all one great miracle to him. Look over the world, says he;
is it not wonderful, the work of Allah; wholly "a sign to you," if your
eyes were open! This Earth, God made it for you; "appointed paths in
it"; you can live in it, go to and fro on it.--The clouds in the dry
country of Arabia, to Mohammed they are very wonderful: Great clouds, he
says, born in the deep bosom of the Upper Immensity, where do they come
from! They hang there, the great black monsters; pour-down their
rain-deluges "to revive a dead earth," and grass springs, and "tall
leafy palm-trees with their date-clusters hanging round. Is not that a
sign?" Your cattle too,--Allah made them; serviceable dumb creatures;
they change the grass into milk; you have your clothing from them, very
strange creatures; they come ranking home at evening-time, "and," adds
he, "and are a credit to you"! Ships also,--he talks often about ships:
Huge moving mountains, they spread-out their cloth wings, go bounding
through the water there, Heaven's wind driving them; anon they lie
motionless, God has withdrawn the wind, they lie dead, and cannot stir!
Miracles? cries he; What miracle would you have? Are not you yourselves
there? God made _you_, "shaped you out of a little clay." Ye were small
once; a few years ago ye were not at all. Ye have beauty, strength,
thoughts, "ye have compassion on one another." Old age comes-on you, and
gray hairs; your strength fades into feebleness; ye sink down, and again
are not. "Ye have compassion on one another": this struck me much: Allah
might have made you having no compassion on one another,--how had it
been then! This is a great direct thought, a glance at first-hand into
the very fact of things. Rude vestiges of poetic genius, of whatsoever
is best and truest, are visible in this man. A strong untutored
intellect; eyesight, heart: a strong wild man,--might have shaped
himself into Poet, King, Priest, any kind of Hero.

To his eyes it is forever clear that this world wholly is miraculous. He
sees what, as we said once before, all great thinkers, the rude
Scandinavians themselves, in one way or other, have contrived to see:
That this so solid-looking material world is, at bottom, in very deed,
Nothing; is a visual and tactual Manifestation of God's-power and
presence,--a shadow hung-out by Him on the bosom of the void Infinite;
nothing more. The mountains, he says, these great rock-mountains, they
shall dissipate themselves "like clouds"; melt into the Blue as clouds
do, and not be! He figures the Earth, in the Arab fashion, Sale tells
us, as an immense Plain or flat Plate of ground, the mountains are set
on that to _steady_ it. At the Last Day they shall disappear "like
clouds"; the whole Earth shall go spinning, whirl itself off into wreck,
and as dust and vapor vanish in the Inane. Allah withdraws his hand from
it, and it ceases to be. The universal empire of Allah, presence
everywhere of an unspeakable Power, a Splendor, and a Terror not to be
named, as the true force, essence and reality, in all things whatsoever,
was continually clear to this man. What a modern talks-of by the name,
Forces of Nature, Laws of Nature; and does not figure as a divine thing;
not even as one thing at all, but as a set of things, undivine
enough,--saleable, curious, good for propelling steamships! With our
Sciences and Cyclopaedias, we are apt to forget the _divineness_, in
those laboratories of ours. We ought not to forget it! That once well
forgotten, I know not what else were worth remembering. Most sciences, I
think, were then a very dead thing; withered, contentious, empty;--a
thistle in late autumn. The best science, without this, is but as the
dead _timber_; it is not the growing tree and forest,--which gives
ever-new timber, among other things! Man cannot _know_ either, unless he
can _worship_ in some way. His knowledge is a pedantry, and dead
thistle, otherwise.

Much has been said and written about the sensuality of Mohammed's
Religion; more than was just. The indulgences, criminal to us, which he
permitted, were not of his appointment; he found them practised,
unquestioned from immemorial time in Arabia; what he did was to curtail
them, restrict them, not on one but on many sides. His Religion is not
an easy one: with rigorous fasts, lavations, strict complex formulas,
prayers five times a day, and abstinence from wine, it did not "succeed
by being an easy religion." As if indeed any religion, or cause holding
of religion, could succeed by that! It is a calumny on men to say that
they are roused to heroic action by ease, hope of pleasure,
recompense,--sugar-plums of any kind, in this world or the next! In the
meanest mortal there lies something nobler. The poor swearing soldier,
hired to be shot, has his "honor of a soldier," different from
drill-regulations and the shilling a day. It is not to taste sweet
things, but to do noble and true things, and vindicate himself under
God's Heaven as a god-made Man, that the poorest son of Adam dimly
longs. Show him the way of doing that, the dullest daydrudge kindles
into a hero. They wrong man greatly who say he is to be seduced by ease.
Difficulty, abnegation, martyrdom, death are the _allurements_ that act
on the heart of man. Kindle the inner genial life of him, you have a
flame that burns-up all lower considerations. Not happiness, but
something higher: one sees this even in the frivolous classes, with
their "point of honor" and the like. Not by flattering our appetites;
no, by awakening the Heroic that slumbers in every heart, can any
Religion gain followers.

Mohammed himself, after all that can be said about him, was not a
sensual man. We shall err widely if we consider this man as a common
voluptuary, intent mainly on base enjoyments,--nay on enjoyments of any
kind. His household was of the frugalest; his common diet barley-bread
and water: sometimes for months there was not a fire once lighted on his
hearth. They record with just pride that he would mend his own shoes,
patch his own cloak. A poor, hard-toiling, ill-provided man; careless of
what vulgar men toil for. Not a bad man, I should say; something better
in him than _hunger_ of any sort,--or these wild Arab men, fighting and
jostling three-and-twenty years at his hand, in close contact with him
always, would not have reverenced him so! They were wild men, bursting
ever and anon into quarrel, into all kinds of fierce sincerity; without
right worth and manhood, no man could have commanded them. They called
him Prophet, you say? Why, he stood there face to face with them; bare,
not enshrined in any mystery; visibly clouting his own cloak, cobbling
his own shoes; fighting, counselling, ordering in the midst of them:
they must have seen what kind of a man he _was_, let him be _called_
what you like! No emperor with his tiara was obeyed as this man in a
cloak of his own clouting during three-and-twenty years of rough actual
trial. I find something of a veritable Hero necessary for that, of
itself.

His last words are a prayer; broken ejaculations of a heart struggling
up, in trembling hope, towards its Maker. We cannot say that his
religion made him _worse_; it made him better; good, not bad. Generous
things are recorded of him: when he lost his Daughter, the thing he
answers is, in his own dialect, everyway sincere, and yet equivalent to
that of Christians, "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed
be the name of the Lord." He answered in like manner of Seid, his
emancipated well-beloved Slave, the second of the believers. Seid had
fallen in the War of Tabuc, the first of Mohammed's fightings with the
Greeks. Mohammed said, It was well; Seid had done his Master's work,
Seid had now gone to his Master: it was all well with Seid. Yet Seid's
daughter found him weeping over the body;--the old gray-haired man
melting in tears! "What do I see?" said she.--"You see a friend weeping
over his friend."--He went out for the last time into the mosque, two
days before his death; asked, If he had injured any man? Let his own
back bear the stripes. If he owed any man? A voice answered, "Yes, me
three drachms," borrowed on such an occasion. Mohammed ordered them to
be paid: "Better be in shame now," said he, "than at the Day of
Judgment."--You remember Kadijah, and the "No, by Allah!" Traits of that
kind show us the genuine man, the brother of us all, brought visible
through twelve centuries,--the veritable Son of our common Mother.

Withal I like Mohammed for his total freedom from cant. He is a rough
self-helping son of the wilderness; does not pretend to be what he is
not. There is no ostentatious pride in him; but neither does he go much
upon humility: he is there as he can be, in cloak and shoes of his own
clouting; speaks plainly to all manner of Persian Kings, Greek Emperors,
what it is they are bound to do; knows well enough, about himself, "the
respect due unto thee." In a life-and-death war with Bedouins, cruel
things could not fail; but neither are acts of mercy, of noble natural
pity and generosity, wanting. Mohammed makes no apology for the one, no
boast of the other. They were each the free dictate of his heart; each
called-for, there and then. Not a mealy-mouthed man! A candid ferocity,
if the case call for it, is in him; he does not mince matters! The War
of Tabuc is a thing he often speaks of: his men refused, many of them,
to march on that occasion; pleaded the heat of the weather, the harvest,
and so forth; he can never forget that. Your harvest? It lasts for a
day. What will become of your harvest through all Eternity? Ho





Next: Revealed At Mecca

Previous: Introduction



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