Page images


CHAP. torious performance was deposited in the archives of prine

ces and emirs; and we may read in our own language, the seven original poems which were inscribed in letters of gold, and suspended in the temple of Mecca. 1 The Arabian poets were the historians and moralists of the age; and if they sympathised with the prejudices, they inspired and crowned the virtues, of their countrymen. The indissoluble union

. of generosity and valour was the darling theme of their song; and when they pointed their keenest satire against a despicable race, they affirmed, in the bitterness of reproach, that

the men knew not how to give, nor the women to deExamples ny.42 The same hospitality which was practised by Abraof genero- ham and celebrated by Homer, is still renewed in the camps sity.

of the Arabs. The ferocious Bedoweens, the terror of the desart, embrace, without inquiry or hesitation, the stranger who dares to confide in their honour and to enter their tent. His treatment is kind and respectful; he shares the wealth or the poverty of his host; and, after a needful repose, he is dismissed on his way, with thanks, with blessings, and perhaps with gifts. The heart and hand are more largely expanded by the wants of a brother or a friend; but the heroic acts that could deserve the public applause, must have surpassed the narrow measure of discretion and experience. A dispute had arisen, who, among the citizens of Mecca, was entitled to the prize of generosity; and a successive application was made to the three who were deemed most wor. thy of the trial. Abdallah, the son of Abbas, had undertaken a distant journey, and his foot was in the stirrup when he heard the voice of a suppliant, “O son of the uncle of “the apostle of God, I am a traveller and in distress." He instantly dismounted to present the pilgrim with his camel, her rich caparison, and a purse of four thousand pieces of gold, excepting only the sword, either for its intrinsic value, or as the gift of an honoured kinsman. The servant of Kais informed the second suppliant that his master was asleep; but he immediately added, “Here is a purse of seven thou


41 Pocock (Specimen, p. 158...161). and Casiri (Bibliot. Hispano-Arabi. ca, tom. i. p. 48.84, &c. 119. tom. ii. p. 17, &c.) speak of the Arabian poets before Mahomet; the seven poems of the Caaba have been published in English by Sir William Jones; but his honourable mission to India has deprived us of his own notes, far more interesting than the obscure and obsolete text.

42 Sale's Preliminary Discourse, p. 29, 30.



"sand pieces of gold (it is all we have in the house), and CHAP. “here is an order, that will entitle you to a camel and a “slave:" the master, as soon as he awoke, praised and enfranchised his faithful steward, with a gentle reproof, that by respecting his slumbers he had stinted his bounty. The third of these heroes, the blind Arabah, at the hour of prayer, was supporting his steps on the shoulders of two slaves. “ Alas!” he replied, “my coffers are empty! but these you “may sell; if you refuse, I renounce them.” At these words, pushing away the youths, he groped along the wall with his staff. The character of Hatem is the perfect model of Arabian virtue ;43 he was brave and liberal, an eloquent poet and a successful robber: forty camels were roasted at his hospi. table feasts; and at the prayer of a suppliant enemy, he restored both the captives and the spoil. The freedom of his countrymen disdained the laws of justice: they proudly indulged the spontaneous impulse of pity and benevolence. The religion of the Arabs, 44 as well as of the Indians, Ancient

idolatry. consisted in the worship of the sun, the moon, and the fixed stars, a primitive and specious mode of superstition. The bright luminaries of the sky display the visible image of a Deity: their number and distance convey to a philosophic, or even a vulgar, eye, the idea of boundless space: the character of eternity is marked on these solid globes, that seem incapable of corruption or decay: the regularity of their motions may be ascribed to a principle of reason or instinct; and their real or imaginary influence encourages the vain belief that the earth and its inhabitants are the object of their peculiar care. The science of astronomy was cultivated at Babylon; but the school of the Arabs was a clear firmament and a naked plain. In their nocturnal marches, they steered by the guidance of the stars: their names, and order, and daily station, were familiar to the curiosity and devotion of the Bedoween; and he was taught by experience

43 D'Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 458. Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. iž. p. 118. Caab and Hesnus (Pocock, Specimen, p. 43. 46. 48.) were likewise conspicuous for their liberality; and the latter is elegantly praised by an

poet : “ Videbis eum cum accesseris exuliantem, ac si dares illi quod ab illo petis."

44 Whatever can now be known of the idolatry of the ancient Arabians, may be found in Pocock (Specimen, p. 89....136. 163, 164). His profound erudition is more clearly and concisely interpreted by Sale (Preliminary Dis. course, p. 14...24.) and Assemanni (Bibliot. Orient. tor. iv. p. 580...590.) has added some valuable remarks.



CHAP. to divide in twenty-eight parts, the zodiac of the moon, and

to bless the constellations who refreshed, with salutary rains, the thirst of the desart. The reign of the heavenly orbs could not be extended beyond the visible sphere; and some metaphysical powers were necessary to sustain the transmigration of souls and the resurrection of bodies: a camel was left to perish on the grave, that he might serve his master in another life; and the invocation of departed spirits implies that they were still endowed with consciousness and power. I am ignorant, and I am careless, of the blind mythology of the Barbarians; of the local deities, of the stars, the air, and the earth, of their sex or titles, their attributes or subordination. Each tribe, each family, each independent warrior, created and changed the rites and the object of his

fantastic worship; but the nation, in every age, has bowed The Caaba to the religion, as well as to the language, of Mecca. The of Mecca genuine antiquity of the Caava ascends beyond the Chris


tian æra: in describing the coast of the Red Sea, the Greek historian Diodorus 45 has remarked, between the Thamu. dites and the Sabæans, a famous temple, whose superior sanctity was revered by all the Arabians: the linen or silken veil, which is annually renewed by the Turkish emperor, was first offered by a pious king of the Homerites, who reigned seven hundred years befor the time of Mahomet.“ A tent or a cavern might suffice for the worship of the savages, but an edifice of stone and clay has been erected in its place; and the art and power of the monarchs of the East have been confined to the simplicity of the original model.47

45 Ιερον αγιωτατον ιδρυται τιμωλενον υπο παντων Αραβον περιτοτεgov (Diodor. Sicul. tom. i. 1. iii. p. 211). The character and position are so correctly apposite, that I am surprised how this curious passage should have been read without notice or application. Yet this famous temple had been overlooked by Agatharcides (de Mari Rubro, p. 58. in Hudson, tom. i.) whom Diodorus copies in the rest of the description. Was the Sicilian more knowing than the Egyptian? Or was the Caaba built between the years of Rome 650 and 746, the dates of their respective histories? (Dodwell, in Dissert. ad tom. i. Hudson, p. 72. Fabricius, Bibliot. Græc. tom. ii. p. 770).

46 Pocock, Specimen, p. 60, 61. From the death of Mahomet we ascend to 68, from his birth to 129, years, before the Christian æra. The veil or curtain, which is now of silk and gold, was no more than a piece of Egyptian linen (Abulfeda, in Vit. Mohammed. c. 6. p. 14).

47 The original plan of the Caaba (which is servilely copied in Sale, the Universal History, &c.) was a Turkish draught, which Reland (de Religione Mohammedicâ, p. 113...123.) has corrected and explained from the best authorities. For the description and legend of the Caaba, consult Pocock


A spacious portico incloses the quadrangle of the Caaba ; a chẠP. square chapel, twenty-four cubits long, twenty-three broad, L. and twenty-seven high: a door and a window admit the light; the double roof is supported by three pillars of wood; a spout (now of gold) discharges the rain-water, and the well Zemzem is protected by a dome from accidental pollution. The tribe of Koreish, by fraud or force, had acquired the custody of the Caaba: the sacerdotal office devolved through four lineal descents to the grandfather of Mahomet; and the family of the Hashemites from whence he sprung, was the most respectable and sacred in the eyes of their country. The precincts of Mecca enjoyed the rights of sanctuary; and, in the last month of each year, the city and the temple were crowded with a long train of pilgrims, who presented their vows and offerings in the house of God. The same rites, which are now accomplished by the faithful Musulman, were invented and practised by the superstition of the idolaters. At an awful distance they cast away their garments: seven times, with hasty steps, they encircled the Caaba, and kissed the black stone: seven times they visited and adored the adjacent mountains: seven times they threw stones into the valley of Mina; and the pilgrimage was achieved, as at the present hour, by a sacrifice of sheep and camels, and the burial of their hair and nails in the consecrated ground. Each tribe either found or introduced in the Caaba their domestic worship: the temple was adorned, or defiled, with three hundred and sixty idols of men, eagles, lions, and antelopes; and most conspicuous was the statue of Hebal, of red agate, holding in his hand seven arrows, without heads or feathers, the instruments and symbols of profane divination. But this statue was a monument of Syrian arts: the devotion of the ruder ages was content with a pillar or a tablet ; and the rocks of the desart were hewn into gods or altars, in imitation of the black stone of (Specimen, p. 115...122.) the Bibliotheque Orientale of d'Herbelot ( Caaba, Hagir, Zemzem, &c.) and Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 114...122.)

48 Cosa, the fifth ancestor of Mahomet, must have usurped the Caaba A. D. 440; but the story is differently told by Jannabi (Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 65...69.) and by Abulfeda (in Vit. Moham.c. 6. p. 13.)

49 In the second century, Maximus of Tyre a tributes to the Arabs the worship of a stone...Αραβιοι σεβατι μεν, οντινα δε εκ οίδα, το de

αγαλμα sidor; 21005 mp tetgay Wyos (dissert. viii. tom. i. p. 142. edit. Reiske); and the reproach is furiously re-echoed by the Christians (Clemens Alex. in Pro.

[ocr errors]


CHAP. Mecca, which is deeply tainted with the reproach of an idoL.

latrous origin. From Japan to Peru, the use of sacrifice has Sacrifices

universally prevailed; and the votary has expressed his graand rites. titude, or fear, by destroying or consuming, in honour of the

gods, the dearest and most precious of their gifts. The life of a manso is the most precious oblation to deprecate a public calamity: the altars of Phænicia and Egypt, of Rome and Carthage, have been polluted with human gore: the cruel practice was long preserved among the Arabs; in the third century, a boy was annually sacrificed by the tribe of the Dumatians ;54 and a royal captive was piously slaughtered by the prince of the Saracens, the ally and soldier of the emperor Justinian.52 A parent who drags his son to the altar, exhibits the most painful and sublime effort of fanaticism: the deed, or the intention, was sanctified by the example of saints and heroes; and the father of Mahomet himself was devoted by a rash vow, and hardly ransomed for the equivalent

a of an hundred camels. In the time of ignorance, the Arabs, like the Jews and Egyptians, abstained from the taste of swine's flesh;53 they circumciseds their children at the age of puberty: the same customs, without the censure or the pretreptico, p. 40. Arnobius contra Gentes, 1. vi. p. 246). Yet these stones were no other than the Buitone of Syria and Greece, so renowned in sacred and profane antiquity (Euseb. Præp. Evangel. 1. i. p. 37. Marsham, Canon. Chron. p. 54...56.

50 The two horrid subjects of Avdeo burse and fluidodurice, are accurately discussed by the learned Sir John Marsliam (Canon. Chron. p. 76...78. 301... 304). Sanchoniatho derives the Phænician sacrifices from the example of Chronus; but we are ignorant whether Clironus lived before or after Abraham, or indeed whether he lived at all.

51 Kat'ETOS EXASOv Tarde 800s, is the repreach of Porphyry; but he likewise imputes to the Roman the same barbarous custom, which, A. U. C.657, had been finally abolisied. Dumætha, Daumat al Gendal, is noticed by Ptolemy (Tabul. p. 37. Arabia, pr. 9. 29.) and Abulfeda (p. 57); and may be found ind’Anville's maps, in the inid-desart between Chaibar and Tadmor.

52 Procopius (de Bell. Persico, l. 1. c. 28), Evagrius (1. vi. c. 21), and Pocock (Specimen, p. 72. 86), attest the human sacrifces of the Arabs in the sixth century. The danger and escape of Abdallahı, is a tradition rather than a fact (Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. I. p. 82... 84).

53 Suillis carnibus abstinent, says Solinus (Polyhistor. c. 33), who copies Pliny (l. viii. c. 68.) in the strange supposition, that hogs cannot live in Ara. bia. The Egiptians were actuated by a natural and superstitious horror forihat unclean beast (Marsham, Canon. p. 205); The old Arabians likewise practi. sed, post coitum, the rite of ablution (Herodot. l. i.c. 89), which is sanctified by the Mahomeian law (Reland, p. 75, &c. Chardin, or rather the Mollah of Shaw Abbas, tum. iv. p. 71, &c.).

54 The Maicmetan doctors are not fond of the subject; yet they hold cir. cumc sion necessary to salvation, and even pre:end that Mahomet was mira. culously born witho ta foreskin (Pocock, Specimen, p. 319, 320. Sale's Preliminary Discourse, p. 106, 107).

« PreviousContinue »