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years. The father was generally himself the murderer. 'Perfume and adorn,' he would say to the mother, 'your daughter, that I may convey her to her mothers.' This done, he led her to a pit dug for the purpose, bade her look down into it, and then, as he stood behind her, pushed her headlong in, and then filling up the pit himself levelled it with the rest of the ground! It is said that the only occasion on which a certain Othman ever shed a tear was when his little daughter whom he was burying alive wiped the dust of the grave earth from his beard. This inhuman practice may have originated from motives of domestic economy, or from fear of dishonour to the tribe if a woman should be taken captive by the enemy, or, what is more likely, from the general disregard of female life and rights. Anyhow it had once been very common, and in Mohammed's time it was still not rare, even among the Kuraish.1

Some women there were who, like the Arabian poetess El Khunsa, by sheer force of character or of genius managed to assert themselves even in the times of ignorance.' But the majority were in the most degraded position, worse even than that in which they were under the laws of Manu in Hindustan, or than they are in Musalman states now. A woman had no rights; she could not inherit property; her person 1 Sale, 'Preliminary Discourse,' V. 92.



formed part of the inheritance which came to the heir of her husband, and he was entitled to marry her against her will. Hence sprung the impious marriages of sons with their step-mothers and others of an even worse character which Mohammed so peremptorily forbade. Polygamy was universal and quite unrestricted; equally so was divorce, at least as far as the man was concerned. We read of a certain woman Omm-Charijeh, who had distinguished herself, even amongst the Arabs, by having forty husbands. A husband could dismiss his wife on the merest whim, and then, if he so pleased, might recall her again under the influence of a similar whim. A few ancient Arab proverbs collected by an American Missionary in Syria, Dr. Jessup,' will perhaps illustrate, more forcibly than any statements of my own, the degradation of woman in the times preceding Mohammed. Here are some of them :

• To send women before to the other world is a benefit.' The best son-in-law is the grave.'

'Obedience to women will have to be repented of.'

'A man can bear anything but the mention of his wives.' The heart of woman is given to folly.'

'Leave not a girl nor a green pasture unguarded.'

'Women are the whips of Satan.'

'Our mother forbids us to err, and herself runs into error.'

'My father does the fighting, and my mother the talking about it.'

1 'Women of the Arabs, cap. I.


Such then were the leading social characteristics of the nation from which Mohammed sprang. It is important for us to bear carefully in mind the difficulties that were in the Prophet's way, that we may be better able hereafter to appreciate the manner in which he dealt with them, and the extent to which he was able to overcome them.

Let us now turn to the religious systems and ideas which prevailed in Arabia before Mohammed's time, and which he, like every other reformer whose work is to last, would have to take into account.

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The two highest religions of the world, Judaism and Christianity, were not unknown in Arabia. The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus had caused a very general migration of Jews from Palestine, southwards and eastwards, beyond the limits of the Roman Empire; and from that time onwards the northern part of Arabia was dotted over by Jewish colonies. In the third century a whole Arabian tribe, even in the south of the peninsula, had adopted the Jewish faith, and the history of Mohammed proves that the neighbourhood of Yathrib contained many Jewish tribes, which, though they maintained in the land of their exile that proud religious isolation which was

1 Not called Medina, i.e. Medinat-an-Nabi, 'the City of the Prophet,' till after the Hijrah. The Arab capital of Malta (now Civita Vecchia) bore for several centuries the same name, Medina.



their national birthright, were not without their influence on Arab politics.


Christianity may have been introduced into Arabia. by St. Paul himself. Neither went I up into Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me,' he says to his Galatian converts, but I went into Arabia.' Anyhow, the persecutions which sprang up in the Eastern Church in the third century drove large numbers of Christians, chiefly those of the Jacobite persuasion, into this land of liberty and free toleration. I reign,' said Marthan, a king of Yemen in the fourth century, 'over men's bodies, not over their minds. require of my subjects that they should obey my government: of their opinions God alone will judge.' Noble words, but mistimed by above eleven centuries, and how imperfectly carried out even now! Accordingly, we hear of several tribes of Yemen becoming to some extent Christianised. We hear of churches, and even of bishops, at Djafar and at Nadjran. But Christianity seems to have taken even less hold than Judaism of the Arab character. Controversies on the minutest points of Christian doctrine absorbed all the energies of those who never thought of leading a Christian life; and the Khalif Ali was not far wrong when he said of a tribe in which Christianity seemed more than elsewhere to be the dominant religion,

'The Taglibites are not Christians: they owe nothing to Christianity except the custom of drinking wine.' 1

Thus neither Christianity nor Judaism ever struck deep root in the Arabian soil. The people were not suited to them, or they were not suited to the people. They lived on, on sufferance only, till a faith, which to the Arabs should be the more living one, should sweep them away.

I have admitted in my first Lecture that the religion of Mohammed was in its essence not original. Mohammed never said it was: he called it a revival of the old one, a return to the primitive creed of Abraham; and there is reason to believe that both the great religions of the Eastern world existing in his time, Sabæanism, that is, and Magianism, had been, in their origin at least, vaguely monotheistic. They had passed through the inevitable stages of spirituality, misunderstanding, decline, and, lastly, intentional corruption, till the God whom Abraham, according to the well-known Musalman legend, had been the first to worship, because, while He had made the stars and sun to rise and set, He never rose nor set Himself, had withdrawn behind them altogether; the heavenly bodies, from being symbols, had become the thing symbolised; temples were erected in their honour, and idols filled the temples.

1 Dozy, p. 20.

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