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CHAP. throw the tyranny of Dejal or the Antichrist.184 In the lapse L.

of two or three centuries the posterity of Abbas, the uncle of Mahomet, had multiplied to the number of thirty-three thousand :183 the race of Ali might be equally prolific; the meanest individual was above the first and greatest of princes; and the most eminent were supposed to excel the perfection of angels. But their adverse fortune, and the wide extent of the Musulman empire, allowed an ample scope for every bold and artful impostor, who claimed affinity with the holy seed: the sceptre of the Almohades in Spain and Afric, of the Fatimites in Egypt and Syria, 184 of the Sultans of Yemen, and of the Sophis of Persia,185 has been consecrated by this vague and ambiguous title. Under their reigns it might be dangerous to dispute the legitimacy of their birth; and one of the Fatimite caliphs silenced an indiscreet question, by drawing his scymetar: “ This,” said Moez, "is my pedigree ; and these," casting an handful of gold to his soldiers, “ and these are my “ kindred and my children.” In the various conditions of princes, or doctors, or nobles, or merchants, or beggars, a swarm of the genuine or fictitious descendents of Mahomet and Ali is honoured with the appellation of sheiks or sheriss, or emirs. In the Ottoman empire, they are distinguished by a green turban, receive a stipend from the treasury, are judged only by their chief, and, however debased by fortune or character, still assert the proud pre-eminence

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182 The name of Antichrist may seem ridiculous, but the Mahometans have liberally borrowed the fables of every religion (Sale's Preliminary Discourse, p. 80. 82). In the royal stable of Ispahan, two horses were always kept sad. dled, one for the Mahadi himself, the other for his lieutenant, Jesus the son of Mary.

183 in the year of the Hegira 200 (A. D. 815). See d'Herbelot, p. 546.

184 D'Herbelot, p. 342. The enemies of the Fatimites disgraced them by a Jewish origin. Yet they accurately deduced their genealogy from Jaafar, the sixth Imam; and the impartial Abulfeda allows (Annal. Moslem. p. 230.) that they were owned by many, qui absque controversiâ genuini sunt Alidarum, homine, propaginum suæ gentis exacte calientes. He quotes some lines from the celebrated Scherif or Rahdi, Egone humilitatem induam in terris hostium ? (I suspect him to be an Edrissite of Sicily) cum in Ægypto sit Chalifa de gente Alii, quocum ego communem habeo patrem et vindicem.

185 The kings of Persia of the last dynasty are descended from Shiek Sefi, a saint of the fourteenth century, and through him from Moussa Cassem, the son of Hosein, the son of Ali (Olearius, p. 957. Chardin, tom. iii. p. 288.) Buc I cannot trace the intermediare degrees in any genuine or fabulous pedigree. If they were truly Fatimites, they might draw their origin from the princes of Mazanderan, who reigned in the ninth century (d'Herbelot, p. 96).



of their birth. A family of three hundred persons, the pure CHAP. and orthodox branch of the caliph Hassan, is preserved without taint or suspicion in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and still retains, after the revolutions of twelve centuries, the custody of the temple and the sovereignty of their native land. The fame and merit of Mahomet would ennoble a plebeian race, and the ancient blood of the Koreish transcends the recent majesty of the kings of the earth.186

The talents of Mahomet are entitled to our applause, but Success of his success has perhaps too strongly attracted our admiration. Mahomet. Are we surprised that a multitude of proselytes should embrace the doctrine and the passions of an eloquent fanatic? In the heresies of the church, the same seduction has been tried and repeated from the 'time of the apostles to that of the reformers. Does it seem incredible that a private citizen should grasp the sword and the sceptre, subdue his native country, and erect a monarchy by his victorious arms? In the moving picture of the dynasties of the East, an hundred fortunate usurpers have arisen from a baser origin, surmounted more formidable obstacles, and filled a larger scope of empire and conquest. Mahomet was alike instructed to preach and to fight, and the union of these opposite qualities, while it enhanced his merit, contributed to his success: the operation of force and persuasion, of enthusiasm and fear, continually acted on each other, til! every bar

! rier yielded to their irresistible power. His voice invited the Arabs to freedom and victory, to arms and rapine, to the indulgence of their darling passions in this world and the other; the restraints which he imposed were requisite to establish the credit of the prophet, and to exercise the obedience of the people; and the only objection to his success, was his rational creed of the unity and perfections of God. It is not the propagation but the permanency of his religion nency of that deserves our wonder: the same pure and perfect im- his religion. pression which he engraved at Mecca and Medina, is preserved, after the revolutions of twelve centuries, by the Indian, the African, and the Turkish proselytes of the Koran.


186 The present state of the family of Mahomet and Ali is most accurately described by Demetrius Cantemir (Hist. of the Oihman Empire, p. 94.) aná Niebuhr (Description de l'Arabie, p. 9...16. 317, &c. It is much to be lainent. ed, that the Danish traveller was unable to purchase the chronicles of Arabia.


CHAP. If the Christian apostles, St. Peter or St. Paul, could return

to the Vatican, they might possibly inquire the name of the Deity who is worshipped with such mysterious rites in that magnificent temple : at Oxford or Geneva, they would experience less surprise: but it might still be incumbent on them to peruse the catechism of the church, and to study the or

, thodox commentators on their own writings and the words of their Master. But the Turkish dome of St. Sophia, with an increase of splendour and size, represents the humble tabernacle erected at Medina by the hands of Mahomet. The Mahometans have uniformly withstood the temptation of reducing the object of their faith and devotion to a level with the senses and imagination of man. “I believe in one God,

. “ and Mahomet the apostle of God,” is the simple and invariable profession of Islam. The intellectual image of the Deity has never been degraded by any visible idol: the honours of the prophet have never transgressed the measure of human virt!le; and his living precepts have restrained the gratitude of his disciples within the bounds of reason and religion. The votaries of Ali have indeed consecrated the memory of their hero, his wife, and his children, and some of the Persian doctors pretend that the divine essence was incarnate in the person of the Imams; but their superstition is universally condemned by the Sonnites; and their impiety has afforded a seasonable warning against the worship of saints and martyrs. The metaphysical questions on the aitributes of God, and the liberty of man, have been agitated in the schools of the Mahometans, as well as in those of the Christians; but among the former they have never engaged the pascions of the people or disturbed the tranquillity of the state. The cause of this important difference may be found in the separation or union of the regal and sacerdotal characters. It was the interest of the caliphs, the successors of the prophet and commanders of the faithful, to repress and discourage all religious innovations: the order, the discipline, the temporal and spiritual ambition of the clergy, are unknown to the Moslems; and the sages of the law are the guides of their conscience and the oracles of their faith. From the Atlantic to the Ganges, the Koran is acknowledge ell as the fundamental code, not only of theology but of civil and criminal jurisprudence; and the laws which regulate the


his coun

actions and the property of mankind, are guarded by the in- CHAP. fallible and immutable sanction of the will of God. This religious servitude is attended with some practical disadvantage; the illiterate legislator had been often misled by his own prejudices and those of his country; and the institutions of the Arabian desart may be ill-adapted to the wealth and numbers of Ispahan and Constantinople. On these occasions, the Cadhi respectfully places on his head the holy volume, and substitutes a dextrous interpretation more apposite to the principles of equity, and the manners and policy of the times.

His beneficial or pernicious influence on the public hap- His merit piness is the last consideration in the character of Mahomet. towards The most bitter or most bigotted of his Christian or Jewish try. foes, will surely allow that he assumed a false commission to inculcate a salutary doctrine, less perfect only than their own. He piously supposed, as the basis of his religion, the truth and sanctity of their prior revelations, the virtues and miracles of their founders. The idols of Arabia were broken before the throne of God; the blood of human victims was expiated by prayer, and fasting, and alms, the laudable or innocent arts of devotion; and his rewards and punishments of a future life were painted by the images most congenial to an ignorant and carnal generation. Mahomet was perhaps incapable of dictating a moral and political system for the use of his countrymen: but he breathed among the faithful a spirit of charity and friendship, recommended the practice of the social virtues, and checked, by his laws and precepts, the thirst of revenge and the oppression of widows and orphans. The hostile tribes were united in faith and obedience, and the valour which had been idly spent in domestic quarrels, was vigorously directed against a foreign eneiny. Had the impulse been less powerful, Arabia, free at home and formidable abroad, might have flourished under a succession of her native monarchs. Her sovereignty was lost by the extent and rapidity of conquest. The colonies of the nation were scattered over the East and West, and their blood was mingled with the blood of their converts and captives. After the reign of three caliphs, the throne was ransported from Medina to the valley of Damascus and she banks of the Tigris; the holy cities were violated by

CHAP. impious war; Arabia was ruled by the rod of a subject, L.

perhaps of a stranger; and the Bedoweens of the desart, awakening from their dream of dominion, resumed their old and solitary independence.187


The Conquest of Persia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, and Spain, by the

Arabs or Saracens.... Empire of the Caliphs or Successors of Mahomet.... State of the Christians, &c. under their Government.



THE revolution of Arabia had not changed the cha

racter of the Arabs: the death of Mahomet was the signal Union of of independence: and the hasty structure of his power and the Arabs, religion tottered to its foundations. A small and faithful A. D. 632.

band of his primitive disciples had listened to his eloquence, and shared his distress; had fled with the apostle from the persecution of Mecca, or had received the fugitive in the walls of Medina. The increasing myriads, who acknowledged Mahomet as their king and prophet, had been compelled by his arms, or allured by his prosperity. The polytheists were confounded by the simple idea of a solitary and invisible God: the pride of the Christians and Jews disdained the yoke of a mortal and contemporary legislator. Their habits of faith and obedience were not sufficiently confirmed; and many of the new converts regretted the venerable antiquity of the law of Moses, or the rites and mysteries of the Catholic church, or the idols, the sacrifices, the joyous festivals, of their Pagan ancestors. The jarring interests and hereditary feuds of the Arabian tribes had not yet coalesced in a system of union and subordination; and

187 The writers of the Modern Universal History (vol. i. and ii.) havecom. piled, in 850 folio pages, the life of Mahomet and the annals of the caliphs. They enjoyed the advantage of reading, and sometimes correcting, the Ara. bic texts; yet, notwithstanding their high-sounding boasts, I cannot find, after the conclusion of my work, that they have afforded me much (if any) addi. tional information. The dull mass is not quickened by a spark of philosophy or taste; and the compilers indulge the criticism of acrimonious bigotry against Boulainvilliers, Sale, Gagnier, and all who have treated Mahomet with favour, or even justice.

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