Imágenes de páginas

His gradual

Whereupon she uncovered her face and said, “Dost thou see it now?” “I do not.” “Glad tidings to thee, O Mohammed !” exclaimed Chadizah : “it is an angel, for he has respected iny unveiled face; an evil spirit would not." As his disease advanced, these spectral illusions became more frequent; from one of them he received the divine commission. “I,” said his wife, “will be thy first believer ;" and they knelt down in prayer together. Since that day nine thousand millions of human beings have acknowledged him to be a prophet of God.

Though, in the earlier part of his career, Mohammed exhibited a spirit of forbearance toward the Christians, it was not possible but that bitter animosity should arise, as the sphere of his influence extended. He appears to have been unable to form any other idea of the Trinity than that of three distinct gods; and the worship antagonism of the Virgin Mary, recently introduced, could to

to Christiannot fail to come into irreconcilable conflict with "9. his doctrine of the unity of God. To his condemnation of those Jews who taught that Ezra was the Son of God, he soon added bitter denunciations of the Oriental churches because of their idolatrous practices. The Koran is full of such rebukes : “Verily, Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the apostle of God.” “ Believe, therefore, in God and his apostles, and say not that there are three gods. Forbear this ; it will be better for you. God is but one God. Far be it from Him that he should have a son.” “ In the last day, God shall say unto Jesus, 0 Jesus, son of Mary! hast thou ever said to men, Take me and my mother for two gods beside God ? He shall say, Praise be unto thee, it is not for me to say that which I ought not.” Mohammed disdained all metaphysical speculations respecting the nature of the Deity, or of the origin and existence of sin, topics which had hitherto exercised the ingenuity of the East. He cast aside the doctrine of the superlative value of chastity, asserting that marriage is the natural state of man. To asceticism he opposed poly- Institution of gamy, permitting the practice of it in this life polygamy. and promising the most voluptuous means for its enjoyment in Paradise hereafter, especially to those who had gained the crowns of martyrdom or of victory.


Causes of his success.

Too often, in this world, success is the criterion of right. The Mohammedan appeals to the splendour and rapidity Kesults of his of his career as a proof of the divine mission of

his apostle. It may, however, be permitted to a philosopher, who desires to speak of the faith of so large à portion of the human race with profound respect, to examine what were some of the secondary causes which led to so great a political result. From its most glorious seats Christianity was for ever expelled: from Palestine, the scene of its most sacred recollections ; from Asia Minor, that of its first churches; from Egypt, whence issued the great doctrine of Trinitarian orthodoxy; from Carthage, who imposed her belief on Europe. It is altogether a misconception that the Arabian progress

was due to the sword alone. The sword may

change an acknowledged national creed, but it cannot affect the consciences of men. Profound though its argument is, something far more profound was demanded before Mohammedanism pervaded the domestic life of Asia and Africa, before Arabic became the language of so many different nations.

The explanation of this political phenomenon is to be found in the social condition of the conquered countries. The influences of religion in them had long ago ceased; it had become supplanted by theology-a theology so incomprehensible that even the wonderful capabilities of the Greek language were scarcely enough to meet its subtle demands; the Latin and the barbarian dialects were out of the question. How was it possible that unlettered men, who with difficulty can be made to apprehend obvious things, should understand such mysteries? Yet they were taught that on those doctrines the salvation or damnation of the human race depended. They saw that the clergy had abandoned the guidance of the individual life of their flocks; that personal virtue or vice were no longer considered ; that sin was not measured by evil works but by the degrees of heresy. They saw that the ecclesiastical chiefs of Rome, Constantinople, and Alexandria were engaged in a desperate struggle for supremacy, carrying out their

purposes by weapons and in ways revolting to the conscience of

What an example when bishops were concerned in


assassinations, poisonings, adulteries, blindings, riots, treasons, civil war; when patriarchs and primates Civil weakwere excommunicating and anathematizing one pers produced another in their rivalries for earthly power, tical demoralbribing eunuchs with gold, and courtesans and ization, royal females with concessions of episcopal love, and influencing the decisions of councils asserted to speak with the voice of God by those base intrigues and sharp practices resorted to by demagogues in their packed assemblies! Among legions of monks, who carried terror into the imperial armies and riot into the great cities, arose hideous clamours for theological dogmas, but never a voice for intellectual liberty or the outraged rights of man. In such a state of things, what else could be the result than disgust or indifference ? Certainly men could not be expected, if a time of necessity arose, to give help to a system that had lost all hold on their hearts.

When, therefore, in the midst of the wrangling of sects, in the incomprehensible jargon of Arians, Nestorians, Eutychians, Monothelites, Monophysites, Mariolatrists, and an anarchy of countless disputants, there sounded through the world, not the miserable voice of the intriguing majority of a council, but the dread battle-cry, “ There is but one God,” enforced by the tempest of Saracen armies, is it surprising that the hubbub was hushed? Is it surprising that all Asia and Africa fell away? In better times patriotism is too often made subordinate to religion ; in those times it was altogether dead.

Scarcely was Mohammed buried when his religion manifested its inevitable destiny of overpassing the bounds of Arabia. The prophet himself had declared war against the Roman empire, and, at the head of 30,000 Conquest of inen, advanced toward Damascus, but his

purpose was frustrated by ill health. His successor Abu-Bekr, the first khalif, attacked both the Romans and the Persians. The invasion of Egypt occurred A.D. 638, the Arabs being invited by the Copts. In a few months the Mohammedan general Amrou wrote to his master, the khalif, “ I have taken Alexandria, the great city of the West.” Treason had done its work, and Egypt was thoroughly subjugated. To complete the conquest of Christian Africa, many attacks


were nevertheless required. Abdallah penetrated nine hundred miles to Tripoli, but returned. Nothing more was done for twenty years, because of the disputes that arose about the succession to the khalifate. Then Moawiyah sent his lieutenant, Akbah, who forced his way to the Atlantic, but was unable to hold the long line of country permanently. Again operations were undertaken by Abdalmalek, the sixth of the Ommiade dynasty, A.D. 698; his lieutenant, Hassan, took Carthage by storm and destroyed it, the conquest being at last thoroughly completed bi Musa, who enjoyed the double reputation of a brave soldier and an eloquent preacher. And thus this region, distinguished by its theological acumen, to which modern Europe owes so much, was for ever silenced by the scimitar. It ceased to preach and was taught to pray.

In this political result-the Arabian conqnest of Africa, there can be no doubt that the same element which exercised in the Vandal invasion so disastrous an effect, came again into operation. But, if treason introduced the enemy, polygamy secured the conquest. In Egypt the Greek population was orthodox, the natives were Jacobites, moro willing to accept the Monotheism of Arabia than to bear the tyranny of the orthodox. The Arabs, carrying out their policy of ruining an old metropolis and erecting a new one, dismantled Alexandria; and thus the patriarchate of that city ceased to have any farther political existence in the Christian system. which for so many ages had been disturbed by its intrigues and violence. The irresistible effect of polygamy in consolidating the new order of things soon became apparent. In little more than a single geno ration all the children of the north of Africa were speaking Arabic. During the khalifates of Abu-Bekr and Omar, and within

twelve years after the death of Mohammed, the Conquest of Syria and

Arabians had reduced thirty-six thousand cities,

towns, and castles in Persia, Syria, Africa, and had destroyed four thousand churches, replacing them with fourteen hundred mosques. In a few years they had extended their rule a thousand miles east and west. In Syria, as in Africa, their early successes were promoted in the most effectual manner by treachery. Damascus was taken


[ocr errors]

after a siege of a year. At the battle of Aiznadin, A.D. 633, Kalid,“ the Sword of God,” defeated the army of Heraclius, the Romans losing fifty thousand men ; and this was soon followed by the fall of the great cities Jerusalem, The fall of Antioch, Aleppo, Tyre, Tripoli. On a red camel, Jerusalem. which carried a bag of corn and one of dates, a wooden dish, and a leather water-bottle, the Khalif Omar came from Medina to take formal possession of Jerusalem. He entered the Holy City riding by the side of the Christian patriarch Sophronius, whose capitulation showed that his confidence in God was completely lost. The successor of Mohammed and the Roman emperor both correctly judged how important in the eyes of the nations was the possession of Jerusalem. A belief that it would be a proof of the authenticity of Mohammedanism led Omar to order the Saracen troops to take it at any cost.

The conquest of Syria and the seizure of the Mediterranean ports gave to the Arabs the command of the sea. They soon took Rhodes and Cyprus. The battle of Cadesia and sack of Ctesiphon, the metropolis of Persia, decided the fate of that kingdom. Syria was thus completely reduced under Omar, the second khalif; Persia under Othman, the third.

If it be true that the Arabs burned the library of Alexandria, there was at that time danger that their fanaticism would lend itself to the Byzantine system; but it was only for a moment that the khalifs fell into this evil policy. They very soon became distinguished become a patrons of learning. It has been said that they learned na overran the domains of science as quickly as they overran the realms of their neighbours. It became customary for the first dignities of the state to be held by men distinguished for their erudition. Some of the maxime cirrent show how much literature was esteemed. The ink of the doctor is equally valuable with the blood of the martyr.” “ Paradise is as much for him who has rightly used the pen as for him who has fallen by the sword.” “ The world is sustained by four things only: the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the good, and the valour of the brave. Within twenty-five years after the death of Mohammed, under Ali, the fourth khalif,

The Arabs


« AnteriorContinuar »