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Mohammed And Mohammedanism

Books: 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
s 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


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


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


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


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


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


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