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soldiers, who, he asserted, were always purified by the blood which they spilt, but whose sins were still the cause of his failure. He owed to this persuasion, and especially to the weakness and divisions of the Arabians, the rapid conquests which he made in less than ten years in Arabia. The neighbouring princes, who had formed little sovereignties from the ruins of the Roman empire, and were mostly Christians, eithersobmitted to his authority, or sought his alliance. He put a personal tax on each of their subjects who did not embrace the Mahometan faith. This custom still subsists among all the sovereigns who acknowledge the Alcoran. Every reputed Infidel pays the prince a poll-tax, over and above the other imposts, which he supports as the rest of the subjects, and lives in other respects according to his religion and civil laws, which don't extend *
far On account of their defectivenefs.
In the course of his- conquests, the impostor
was like to lose his life by an accident that should
have unmasked him to all his followers. In one
of those towns which he had lately conquered, a
young girl, whose brother Mahomet had caused
to be put to death, undertook his revenge; she
served up to the prophet a shoulder of mutton
impregnated with a subtle poison. Being warned,
not by any divine science, but by the bad taste of
the meat placed before him, Mahomet threw up
what he had taken of it; but he could not pre
d 2 vent
vent all the effects of the poison, which had mixed, with his blood, and gave him violent convulsions. The girl confessed the truth, saying, that she had resolved to know if Mahomet were a prophet, or only an impostor. She was delivered to the parents of a young man, who, having eaten .more of the meat than Mahomet, had died immediately. They avenged, in the blood of the homicide, the loss of their son. But the prophet never thoroughly recovered from this pretended proof; he languished three years, without relaxing * his ambition, without being less vigilant, less in*
trepid, less a hypocrite, or kss voluptuous.
During the truce, the Mecchesc attempted to succour a town besieged by Mahomet's soldiers, The prophet armed in haste against them, looking on the truce as broken, His forces, by the hope of booty, by persuasion, or by fear, augmented every day. He became in 630, the eighth year of the hegira, the despotic sovereign of his native city, from which he had been driven some years before. Being now master of this famous temple, so venerated by his proselytes, he broke in pieces the numerous idols there, and pretended to restore to the temple of one sole God all its pdrity, by causing all the reveries of the Alcoran, and the absurd signs of his mission, to be said in it.
Mahomet would soon have been sovereign of all Arabia, if his example had not produced two other impostors, prophets, warriors, and legislators, like
himself. himself, who thought to take advantage os the weakness of the Arabians and of their love of novelty; Molozeima and Alafvaad, both Mussulmen, attempted at the same time in distant provinces to subdue the people in their own name, and to give them new laws. These enterprizes, made by two brave and learned men, imbittered Mahomet's latter days, and shook his throne.
The impression Of the poison, which he had not been able to eradicate, after three years made rapid progress. He sent his lieutenants against , these formidable rivals, and, before his death, had the satisfaction to fee himself rid of one of them. Alafvaad, betrayed by his wife and relations, who sold him to Mahomet, was assassinated jn his own house. But the fall of the more redoubtable Molozeima, who had already conquered some Arabian towns, was reserved for the prophet's first successor.
At length this fortunate impostor died, in the j ith year of the hegira, the 633d of Jesus Christ, at Medina, which he had made his capital, aged upwards of 63 solar years, after having deceived, fought, and reigned, twenty-three years in almost every part of Arabia. Mahomet's historians, in publishing his impostures, have particularly extolled his genius. Circumstances contributed much to his glory; without doubt he was indebted 3 great deal to his audacity, to his patience • tience in his proceedings, and to his warlike talents; but if he was the founder of the powerful empire of the caliphs, and of an extended religion, those, who placed the Alcoran in his mouth, and arms in his hands, who combined how far tl)e credulity of the Arabians might be counted on, and who shewed them some truths to gain credit to a thousand falsitiee, contributed more to exalt the glory of Mahomet, than his ignorance, incontinency, and severity, could hurt him. The greatest success of Mahometanism was not 'till after the death of the prophet. He had fought to possess himself of some cities: his successors enslaved provinces and kingdoms, and the Mussulman law was much more respected, because its author no longer displayed to the eyes of the people a scandalous conduct, which it had been often necessary to justify.
Mahomet was no more, and his most zealous disciples would not allow that he had paid the debt to nature. As soon as the prophet had breathed his last, Omar, whose daughter he had married, in order to deceive the people, made use of the most convincing argument that Mahomet had ever employed during his life; he drew his sword, and swore, that he would exterminate all those who should dare advance that the prophet was dead. The multitude, who feared and respected Omar, were inclined to believe what he said -, when Abubeker, another of
the prophet's fathers-in-law, exclaimed: Do you then worship Mahomet, or the God of Mahomet, who alone is infinite and immortal? If it is true that our prophet was but a man like us, why should he have been exempted from the universal law? And he proved by the Alcoran that Mahomet had often repeated himself that he should die. This discourse convinced Omar and all the Mussulmen, whom the sight of the dead body had not been able to undeceive. Mahomet was interred with much solemnity in the very same place where he died. The visit to his tomb is still the most celebrated pilgrimage among the Mussulmen, after that of Mecca.
The sceptre seemed to belong to Ali, the prophet's nearest relation, his only son-in-law, and his oldest disciple, he who had the first exposed his life for the preservation of his master's. But Aiefa, the daughter of Abubeker, Mahomet's most beloved wife, though she whom he had had most reason to complain of, always remembered, that at the time when the Angel Gabriel had brought from Heaven a chapter of the Alcoran to wash her of the crime of adultery, Ali had raised difficulties in the mind of Mahomet, and had exposed his cherished wife to a thousand domestic chagrins, and to the anger of an irritated husband, when at the same time the air was resounding with the conviction and proof of her innocence. Aiesa seized this, occasion to be revenged. In