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to hear some men talk, or to read some books, that the setting up of a religion by dint of miraculous pretences was a thing of every day's experience; whereas I believe, that, except the Jewish and Christian religion, there is no tolerably well authenticated account of any such thing having been accomplished.
II. The establishment of Mahomet's religion was effected by causes, which, in no degree, appertained to the origin of Christianity.
During the first twelve years of his mission, Mahomet had recourse only to persuasion. This is allowed. there is sufficient reason from the effect to believe, that if he had confined himself to this mode of propagating his religion, we of the present day should never have heard either of him or it. "Three years were silently employed in the conversion of fourteen proselytes. For ten years, the religion advanced with a slow and painful progress, within the walls of Mecca. The number of proselytes in the seventh year of his mission may be estimated by the absence of eighty-three men and eighteen women, who retired to Ethiopia*." Yet this progress, such as it was, appears to have been aided by some very important advantages, which Mahomet found in his situation, in his mode of conducting his design, and in his doctrine.
1. Mahomet was the grandson of the most powerful and honourable family in Mecca: and although the early death of his father had not left him a patrimony suitable to his birth, he had, long before the commencement of his mission, repaired this deficiency by an opulent marriage. A person considerable by his wealth, of high descent, and nearly allied to the chiefs of his country, taking upon himself the character of a religious teacher, would not fail of attracting attention and followers.
* Gibbon's Hist. vol. ix. p. 244, et seq. Ed. Dub.
2. Mahomet conducted his design, in the outset especially, with great art and prudence. He conducted it as a politician would conduct a plot. His first application was to his own family. This gained him his wife's uncle, a considerable person in Mecca, together with his cousin Ali, afterwards the celebrated Caliph, then a youth of great expectation, and even already distinguished by his attachment, impetuosity, and courage*. He next addressed himself to Abu Becr, a man amongst the first of the Koreish in wealth and influence. The interest and example of Abu Becr drew in five other principal persons in Mecca, whose solicitations prevailed upon five more of the same rank. This was the work of three years; during which time, every thing was transacted in secret. Upon the strength of these allies, and under the powerful protection of his family, who, however some of them might disapprove his enterprise, or deride his pretensions, would not suffer the orphan of their house, the relict of their favourite brother, to be insulted, Mahomet now commenced his publick preaching. And the advance which he made, during the nine or ten remaining years of his peaceable ministry, was by no means greater than what, with these advantages, and with the additional and singular circumstance of there being no established religion at Mecca at that time to contend with, might reasonably have been expected. How soon his primitive adherents were let into the secret of his views of empire, or in what stage of his undertaking these views
* Of which Mr Gibbon has preserved the following specimen :— "When Mahomet called out in an assembly of his family, Who among you will be my companion, and my vizir? Ali, then only in the fourteenth year of his age, suddenly replied, O prophet! I am the man;-whosoever rises against thee, I will dash out his teeth, tear out his eyes, break his legs, rip up his belly. O prophet! I will be thy vizir over them." Vol. ix. p. 245.
first opened themselves to his own mind, it is not now easy to determine. The event however was, that these, his first proselytes, all ultimately attained to riches and honours, to the command of armies, and the government of kingdoms*.
3. The Arabs deduced their descent from Abraham through the line of Ishmael. The inhabitants of Mecca, in common probably with the other Arabian tribes, acknowledged, as, I think, may clearly be collected from the Koran, one supreme deity, but had associated with him many objects of idolatrous worship. The great doctrine, with which Mahomet set out, was the strict and exclusive unity of God. Abraham, he told them, their illustrious ancestor; Ishmael, the father of their nation; Moses, the lawgiver of the Jews; and Jesus, the author of Christianity, had all asserted the same thing; that their followers had universally corrupted the truth, and that he was now commissioned to restore it to the world. Was it to be wondered at, that a doctrine so specious, and authorized by names, some or other of which were holden in the highest veneration by every description of his hearers, should, in the hands of a popular missionary, prevail to the extent in which Mahomet succeeded by his pacifick ministry?
4. Of the institution which Mahomet joined with this fundamental doctrine, and of the Koran in which that institution is delivered, we discover, I think, two purposes that pervade the whole, viz. to make converts, and to make his converts soldiers. The following particulars, amongst others, may be considered as pretty evident indications of these designs:
1. When Mahomet began to preach, his address to the Jews, the Christians, and to the Pagan Arabs, was, that
the religion which he taught, was no other than what had been originally their own. "We believe in God, and that which hath been sent down unto us, and that which hath been sent down unto Abraham, and Ishmaël, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which was delivered unto Moses and Jesus, and that which was delivered unto the prophets from their Lord we make no distinction between any of them*." "He hath ordained you the religion which he commanded Noah, and which we have revealed unto thee, O Mohammed, and which we commanded Abraham, and Moses, and Jesus, saying, Observe this religion, and be not divided thereint.” "He hath chosen you, and hath not imposed on you any difficulty in the religion which he hath given you, the religion of your father Abraham‡."
2. The author of the Koran never ceases from describing the future anguish of unbelievers, their despair, regret, penitence, and torment. It is the point which he labours above all others. And these descriptions are conceived in terms which will appear in no small degree impressive, even to the modern reader of an English translation. Doubtless they would operate with much greater force upon the minds of those to whom they were immediately directed. The terrour which they seem well calculated to inspire, would be to many tempers a powerful application.
3. On the other hand; his voluptuous paradise; his robes of silk, his palaces of marble, his rivers and shades, his groves and couches, his wines, his dainties; and, above all, his seventy-two virgins assigned to each of the faithful, of resplendent beauty and eternal youth; intoxicated the imaginations, and seized the passions, of his Eastern followers.
* Sale's Koran. c. ii. p. 17.
† Ib. c. xlii. p. 393.
4. But Mahomet's highest heaven was reserved for those who fought his battles, or expended their fortunes in his cause. "Those believers who sit still at home, not having any hurt, and those who employ their fortunes and their persons for the religion of God, shall not be held equal. God hath preferred those who employ their fortunes and their persons in that cause, to a degree above those who sit at home. God had indeed promised every one Paradise; but God had preferred those who fight for the faith, before those who sit still, by adding unto them a great reward; by degrees of honour conferred upon them from him, and by granting them forgiveness and mercy*." Again, "Do ye reckon the giving drink to the pilgrims, and the visiting of the holy temple, to be actions as meritorious as those performed by him who believeth in God and the last day, and fighteth for the religion of God? They shall not be held equal with God.-They who have believed and fled their country, and employed their substance and their persons in the defence of God's true religion, shall be in the highest degree of honour with God; and these are they who shall be happy. The Lord sendeth them good tidings of mercy from him, and good will, and of gardens wherein they shall enjoy lasting pleasures. They shall continue therein forever; for with God is a great reward.” And, once more ; " Verily God hath purchased of the true believers their souls and their substance, promising them the enjoyment of Paradise, on condition that they fight for the cause of God: whether they slay or be slain, the promise for the same is assuredly due by the Law and the Gospel and the Koran‡ §.”
Sale's Koran, c. iv. p. 73.
† Ib. c. ix. p. 151. #Ib. p. 164. "The sword (saith Mahomet) is the key of heaven and of hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of God, a night spent in arms, is of more