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trifling present to the unknown fanatic, being averse to making enemies of any sort while the Persian war was still on his hands. Little as it could have been foreseen at the time, the followers of the writer of these eccentric missives were fated to tear up the empire of Chosroes by the roots, and to lop off half of its fairest provinces from the realm of Heraclius. The Arabian prophet was no less a person than Mohammed the son of Abdallah, that strange being, half seer and half impostor, whose preaching was destined to convulse three continents, and turn the stream of history into new and unexpected channels. The tribes of Arabia had hitherto been of very little importance: their local feuds absorbed all their superfluous energy. They were divided from each other, as well by religious differences as by ancient clan hatreds. Some worshipped stocks and stones, some the host of heaven, some had partly adopted Christianity, others Judaism. They were given over to fetich-worship, human sacrifices, drunkenness, infanticide, bloodshedding, polygamy, and highway robbery. Among these godless tribes appeared Mohammed, a poor man, but born of an ancient and powerful clan, who preached to them a rigid Unitarian creed, accompanied by a reformation in morality. He had been called by the One true God, he said, in a vision on Mount Hira, to proclaim a new revelation to his countrymen, to turn them from idolatry and hatred of each other, to the worship of Allah and the practice of brotherly love. Mohammed was a being of a poetic and visionary temperament, given to high ideals and high enterprises. He was afflicted with long fits, or trances, in which his soul wandered far into the fields of thought: these trances he took for divine inspirations, and his imaginings—which were often noble enough—seemed to him the direct commands of God, though in them good and grand ideas were freely mixed with baser elements, tainted by the ignorance, cruelty, and lust of a seventh century Arab. For long the preaching of Mohammed was of no effect: his.
own tribe grew weary of his unending exhortations, and chased him away from Mecca (622). It is from this flight to Medina The Hijrah, –the famous “Hijrah,’ that all Moslem chrono622. logy is dated. But in spite of ill-success and persecution the prophet never swerved from his mission, and at last proselytes began flocking in to him, and he became the head of a powerful sect. Then came the fatal moment which turned his teaching from a blessing to Arabia into a curse for the world. When he grew powerful enough, he bade his sectaries to take up the sword, and impose Islam on their neighbours by the force of arms. His first success in the field, the battle of Bedr (624), was an encouragement to persevere in this evil path, and for the last eight years of his life he went forth, conquering and to conquer, among the tribes of Arabia, till he had built up a little theocratic empire in the peninsula (624-32). Mohammed's successes were won by unhallowed means, and the desire to extend them at almost any cost gradually led him into compromises with the habits and superstitions of his countrymen which were fatal to the purity of his religion. A strain of cunning, of revenge, of self-indulgence, appeared Mehammed in a character which, in his years of poverty and and his trouble, had been blameless. He connived at the ***** ancient fetich-worship of the Arabs, by conceding that the conical black stone of the Kaabah, which they had always worshipped, had been hallowed by Abraham, and should be the central shrine of his new saith. He fostered their vanity by proclaiming them the chosen people of God. \ He pandered to their craving for lust and bloodshed, by promising them the goods of their enemies to plunder in this | life, and a heaven of gross sensual enjoyment in the next. He restricted, but he did not abolish, the evils of polygamy and slavery. In his day of triumph he consigned whole tribes and towns to death, sometimes under circumstances of treachery as well as of cruelty. Worst of all, he foisted into his revelation special mandates of God permitting himself to do things which his teaching forbade to his followers, such as to exceed his own limit of polygamy, and even to take his own foster-son's bride to wife. It is hard to believe that he can have failed to see the horrible blasphemy involved in forging the name of God to special warrants approving his own lust. But this sin he repeatedly committed. The personal failings of Mohammed seem to have brought into his creed a blight of cruelty, bigotry, and self-indulgence, which has rendered half-useless its higher and nobler features. The religion which legalises the slaughter and plunder of all unbelievers and consigns woman to the harem may have been a comparative blessing to the wild Arabs of Mohammed's own day, or to the Negro of the modern Soudan: to the civilised world it was a mere curse—the substitution of an inferior for a higher creed and life. Even to the Arab of the seventh century it was but half-beneficial: if it stayed him from drunkenness, human sacrifices, and infanticide, it merely directed his bloodthirstiness against foreign instead of domestic foes, and gave a divine sanction to many of his lower instincts. Wherever Mohammedanism has taken root, it has led at first to rapid and enthusiastic outbursts of vigour, but it seems gradually to sap the energy of the nations which adopt it, and leads, after a few generations of greatness, Failings of to a stagnation and decay, which the Moslem in Islam. his self-satisfied bigotry is too blind to perceive. The creed only thrives while militant. When it has won its victory, it sinks into dull apathy. Islam is a good religion to die by, as its fanatics have shown on a thousand battlefields, but not a good religion to live by. Good and evil elements are too hopelessly mixed in it, just as in Mohammed's Koran, that miscellaneous receptacle of all his revelations: high thoughts about the Godhead or the fate of man are mingled with the mere opportunist orders of the day, or with licences for the personal gratification of the Prophet."
* The Koran consists of all Mohammed's inspired sayings, taken down at the time on wooden tablets, palm-leaves, or blade-bones, by his But whatever were the failings of Mohammed and of Mohammed's creed, they had one fearful efficiency, the power to turn their sectaries into wild fanatics, careless of life or death upon the battlefield. Life meant to them the duty of smiting down the Infidel, and the privilege of spoiling him : death, the yet greater joys of a paradise of gross sensual delights. What the first mad rush of a horde of Moslem fanatics, drunk with religious frenzy, was like, modern Europe had half forgotten, though our crusading forefathers knew it well enough. But the generation which has seen the halfarmed Arabs of the Soudan face the steadiest troops in the world equipped with quick-firing rifles and artillery, and almost carry the day against them, has had good reason to revise its view about the power of Mohammedan fanaticism.
Before he died, Mohammed had begun to take measures for the spread of his religion by the sword beyond the limits of Arabia. In 629, the year after the end of the Persian war, the troops of Heraclius who garrisoned the fortresses on the desert frontier of Palestine, had been attacked by wandering bands of Arab zealots. But it was not till the Prophet himself was dead that the full storm of invasion fell upon the Roman empire and its Persian neighbours. It was Abu Bekr, the first ‘ caliph' or ‘successor' of Mohammed, who sent forth in 633 the two armies which were bidden respectively to convert Syria and Chaldaea to Islam by the edge of the sword.
Neither the Roman nor the Persian empire was well fitted for resistance at the moment. The twenty years of war brought about by the ambition of Chosroes had reduced each of them to the extreme of exhaustion. Since the end of the war Persia had been a prey to incessant civil strife and revolution: nine princes had mounted the throne in little more than four years. In the Roman empire Heraclius had been doing his best to repair the calamities of the war: his first care had been to repay, by means of the war indemnity paid by Siroes and the imposition of new taxes, the great exhaustion loan which the Church had made him, in order of the Roman to equip his troops for the struggle. He had dis- *P* banded much of his victorious army in pursuit of the policy of retrenchment for which the ruined state of his empire called. But he could not repair the losses which Syria and Asia Minor had suffered in spending ten years beneath the Persian yoke. The very foundations of society seemed to have been sapped in the provinces of the East by the prolonged Persian occupation. The numerous heretical sects which swarmed in the valleys of the Nile and the Orontes had raised their heads during the Persian rule, and bore with ill-concealed reluctance the restoration of the imperial authority. The Jews, who had often sided with the Persians, were restless and discontented. It was said that half the population of Syria and Egypt wished ill to the empire. It would have required two generations of peace and wise administration to restore to their old condition those Oriental dioceses which had for the last three centuries been the stay and support of the East-Roman Empire; but less than four years after Heraclius had solemnly restored the “True Cross’ to the custody of the Patriarch of Jerusalem the Arabs burst into the land. While Khaled and one fanatical Saracen horde assaulted the Persian frontier on the lower Euphrates, another, under Abu Obeida, attacked the eastern or desert front of Syria. Bostra, the first city on the edge of the waste, fell by treachery, a small army under the patrician Sergius was defeated, and the governors of Syria and Palestine sent for aid to the emperor. Hardly yet realising the danger of the crisis, Heraclius sent some reinforcements under his brother Theodore to join the local troops. This army checked the Moslems for some months; and it was considered necessary by the caliph to strengthen the Arab host in Syria by sending thither half the force which had invaded the
followers, and consigned in confusion to a chest, from which they were afterwards drawn out at random, and strung together, not according to their date or their contents, but simply in order of length.