Page images

mon fate of every person in Mecca, except a single individual, who was a relation of Khadijah's, and who had been both a Christian and a Jew. He was likewise brought up to a reverence for idolatry, and unacquainted with the principles of Judaism and Christianity, both of which his Koran plainly shows that its authors certainly understood. How he acquired this knowledge deserves some consideration. He travelled, it is true, into Syria, Persia, and Egypt, while factor or agent for her who became his first wife, in all which countries he would find many disciples both of Moses and of Christ; but such a minute inquiry into their principles, if made in public, while he discovered no inclination to become a convert to either, would have excited general curiosity to find out his reason, and this again would have left no uncertainty as to the source of his information. A man, ignorant of both, must have required considerable time and attention to become so well versed in their tenets, as the author of the Koran must be allowed to have been. We should suppose that all the knowledge he could acquire in the course of travelling would be very trifling, as it would come accidentally in his way; for a man whose success depended on privacy would not be very inquisitive. Besides, when men are engaged in traffic, and have their ideas engrossed with the disposal of their commodities, they are not in a humor to talk much about religion. Yet no man can read the Koran without being assured that he did receive assistance from some quarter, but there are two circumstances which increase our difficulty in coming at the truth. Christians who were filled with indignation at the wickedness of Mohammed might perhaps be disposed to exaggerate in this as well as in some other things relating to the Impostor; and his followers being determined to support the divinity of its origin, would not make any circumstance public which would injure this opinion, if able to keep it a secret, however well acquainted they might be with the truth. Taking therefore the testimony of those authors who can be least suspected of having any such despicable end to serve as that of indulging in a spirit of malevolence, we may rest assured of this truth, that Mohammed was aided in the composition of his Koran by a Jew and a Christian. The Jew's name was Abdia Ben Salon, whom the Impostor called Abd'allah, according to the Arabian method of terminating Hebrew words. The name of the Christian monk was Sergius or Bahira, the first given him by the Western, and the second by the Eastern churches. That the man is one and the same, appears from the uniformity of the descriptions given of him; and the reason why he is called Sergius in the West and Bahira in the East, may have been owing to a change of opinions, and subsequent change of name, the Western churches continuing to call him Sergius from their ignorance of the change, and the same cause inducing the Eastern churches to call him always Bahira.

All I find related of Abdia or Abd'allah worthy of notice is,

that he was a man of amazing artifice and cunning, probably a native of Persia, and so absolute a stranger to remorse of conscience on the commission of evil, that he was a match for anything, however desperately wicked. He was a man of profound erudition, skilled in all the abstruse learning of the seed of Abraham, and even promoted to the literary dignity of a Rabbi. A respectable author called Johannes Andreas, who, from being a Mohammedan turned Christian, avers that Abd'allah wrote all Mohammed's pretended revelations for the space of ten years. This instantly lets the cat out of the bag, for however much his employer might insist that he was only his amanuensis, we who have an opportunity of investigating the matter with calmness and attention, inust dispute his veracity. A regard to truth was none of Mohammed's failings, and therefore all he could say upon the subject, will not free him from the imputation of having this fellow for an accomplice. Being as little disposed to boggle at immorality as he could possibly be himself, he could not have found a person in the world better qualified for his purpose. But as Bahira could just as easily have betrayed Mohammed as he had deserted his former principles, the Impostor, who no doubt perceived this, sent him quietly to the other world, when he had no further use for him. Two may perhaps keep a secret, however wicked, but it is extremely dangerous to trust any more. Iniquitous designs have such a tendency to beget a spirit of jealousy, even in the projectors, and to excite a competition for fame or emolument, that they perpetually cherish the seeds of their own destruction. Without honesty a community of thieves cannot long exist, and without a degree of confidence in an accomplice which it is almost impossible to call forth, an Impostor is in perpetual danger of having those for his greatest enemies who are privy to his scheme. If they are chiefly concerned in its fabrication, and in giving it some shadow of consistency and plausibility, the least air of superiority on his part may shake it to its very basis, and neglecting to reward them in such an ample manner as they expect, may lay it in ruins. Of all these circumstances Mohammed seems to have been perfectly aware, and therefore he deemed it the safest and most prudent method to dispatch Bahira, since this would render it impossible for him to tell any tidings. It would be absurd to expect a particular account of this murder in any historian, but the inquisitive mind can discover sufficient premises from which to infer this conclusion. If it was ever known to any that Mohammed was the personal perpetrator of the deed, it would naturally be ascribed to any cause rather than the just one. But from the observations already made, the true reason can hardly be controverted by a reflecting mind. And while the horrid wickedness of Bahira must be execrated by every pious soul, this diminishes not the guilt of Mohammed in imbruing his hands in his blood. They were both monsters, but the employer of the monk was infinitely the greater

villain, since he added murder to delusion, united a wish to deceive the world with a breach of trust, and basely violated the confidence which he had induced Bahira to repose in him. Indeed we deem the receiver of stolen goods as bad at least as the thief, and therefore the countenancer of a scheme so wicked in its nature, and so dangerous in its tendency, met, in a premature death, the fate he deserved.

As we wish to omit nothing of importance which can either exhibit the folly and superstition of the Mohammedans, or the extreme wickedness of their prophet, disdaining at the same time to father anything upon him for which we can discover no authentic documents; it will be proper to present the reader in this place with the ridiculous stories concerning this monk, which are firmly believed by the disciples of the Impostor. We are told that Bahira meeting Mohammed in a city called Bostra, on the confines of Syria, instantly knew him to be the great prophet that was to come into the world, to make a clearer revelation of the will of God to men. The mark by which he recognized him was a light shining from his face, and which at the creation of the world was stamped upon Adam. The unity of this luminous appearance was preserved from the days of Adam to the time of Abraham, when it was converted into two, one resting upon Isaac, and the other on Ismael. The light of Isaac, they observe, was soon manifested in the many prophets who descended from him, but the light of Ismael was veiled till the time of Mohammed, in whom it shone forth with such brilliancy, that Bahira knew him in a moment! This is a clumsy, ill-made allusion to the shining of Moses' face, when he came down from the mount, which rendered it extremely difficult for the Israelites to look upon him. They all saw the light, which must always be perceived by persons who have the use of their eyes; but the light on Mohammed's face could only touch the optics of Bahira. Everybody else in the public market must have been blind, while the apostate monk was as quick-sighted as a cat. It is said by others, that he knew Mohammed by the seal of his prophetic mission stamped between his shoulders. It is a pity they have not condescended to tell us whether this mark was on the bare buff, or on his outer doublet. If on his upper garment, hundreds must have seen it as well as Bahira, and if he instantly stript to the skin to make the wonderful discovery, how came it to pass that all this hurry and bustle es aped the observation of the multitude? If it is pretended that he took him aside to examine it privately, how came he to know that such a mark was there? It is manifest that he would not, tl at he could not have taken such a step without some previous conviction or suspicion of its existence; but how he acquired this, is the question. It is extremely curious that he should know him by a certain mark, which he did not know was there prior to an examination. Had he known it by a supernatural impulse, he

would have told the public that this was the prophet of God, the messenger of the great Allah, and that there was a particular mark between his shoulders, which they might examine if they pleased. Nothing of this, however, was attempted, for it seems it was enough that Bahira knew such a mark to be there, and what it signified, without permitting the people to act the absurd part of judging for themselves. Those who would not wish to have their conduct touched by the dirty hand of inspection, should prevent mankind, if possible, from the horrid crime of thinking. This was the prudent, cautious conduct of Mohammed and Bahira; but the passive obedience of the multitude in giving credit to the existence of a light which they did not see, and of a mark they were never required to examine, remains to be accounted for, and perhaps always will. Truth is always consistent with itself, but falsehood is so disjointed and incoherent in all its parts, that eagle-eyed investigation must discover its cloven foot.

The deluded votaries of Mohammed being determined to reject every idea of his having received assistance in the composition of his Koran, convert his very ignorance into an argument for its divinity. They allow him to have been destitute of the first principles of any art or science, challenging the world to produce such a work under similar circumstances. It is as capable of demonstration as any problem of Euclid, that he had it not from God, because his design in fabricating his imposture, and the means he employed to insure its success in the world, are absolutely repugnant to every notion of the Almighty, which the lowest and most degraded state of the human understanding can possibly form. It succeeded by humoring the darling passions of corrupt nature, and durst never make an appeal to the common sense of mankind. Thus much will be granted, that the Koran, after de ducting the blasphemy, absurdity, and contradiction with which it abounds, is the very standard of elegance in the original, discovering beauties as a composition in the Arabic tongue, which no ignorant man could ever have exhibited. But this can be no argument in favor of its divine origin, while it carries in its bosom the insignia of the devil, and abounds in obscenity and profligacy. It is nothing in its favor, that it sets out with supporting the unity of the divine nature, and so repeatedly asserts that God is one. only betrays the cloven foot of Abd'allah his Jewish confederate, who, in spite of all his Rabbinical ingenuity, artifice, and caution, could not wholly conceal the faith which he formerly professed, not


1 But were it even possible to obtain a miraculous power in order to dindicate a lie, that power would not make a rational being credit any voctrine or precept which dishonors God. For instance, a miracle could not make men believe that the Almighty is the author of sin, much less will the language of the Koran, however elegant, support his divinity, while every sentence of it almost is an open insult to the Majesty of heaven and earth.

only in one, but in many places of the Arabian Bible. But the truth is, he did not wish to conceal it, since a part of it, at least, was to compose the part of the Koran, no doubt with Mohammed's consent and approbation, after he came to understand it. Whenever any mention is made of rites and ceremonies, whether to be espoused or rejected, the mysterious jargon of the Talmud discovers to the discerning mind who was his principal coadjutor. Without the aid of some who better understood the Supreme Being than an egregiously ignorant man, born and brought up in an idolatrous country, the Koran could not have had even the despicable merit of mingling this doctrine with so much wickedness. It is a systematical vindication of robbery, debauchery, and murder, not only sanctioned by the life of its author, but blasphemously supported by the authority of God himself, which the Impostor says he received from the angel Gabriel.

We do not suppose that it was material to Mohammed what he taught, provided his countrymen could be brought to believe its divine origin, whether from God or from the gods; the legality of the means by which he proposed to enforce its observance, and the undoubted equity of his claim to supreme dominion, both in things secular and religious. True, indeed, he had much opposition to expect from Jews and Christians, in the infancy of his scheme, of which we have already taken notice, and therefore it was a piece of consummate policy, for which he was certainly indebted to the plotting head of Abd'allah, to admit into his system some peculiar, leading doctrine, which both parties believed. We cannot allow that Arabian divinity taught men such ideas of God, as a Jew could communicate, and which, it must be confessed, abound in the Koran, notwithstanding the wickedness it makes the Almighty to countenance. Idolatry is incompatible with such ideas, for when worship is divided among a thousand deities, the mind can have no such exalted conceptions of any individual. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans. Under the fictitious character of Jupiter, the greatest authors would have us to perceive Almighty God, the independent ruler of the universe; but as Jupiter was a thief, a whoremonger and adulterer; a scandal even to mankind, and as he died, and was buried, we should as soon credit the Koran as adopt such a sentiment. Mohammed, then, by giving the unity of God a place in his Bible, took off a considerable part of that horror at his religion, which must otherwise have been felt by Christians and Jews. It was thus the easier for him to make proselytes of people so torn to pieces by dissension as the Eastern churches of the Christians then were, many of whose members chimed in with his delusions; and his own countrymen being without any religion, properly so called, were the more likely to espouse opinions which offered no violence to their passions. It was also a grand manoeuvre for making converts of the Jews, who could by no means stomach the doctrine of the Trinity. If any system

« PreviousContinue »