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With the sword in one hand, and the Koran in the other, he called down the vengeance of heaven on the obstinacy of the unbeliever, or proclaimed the holy war of persecution against the devoted and contumacious infidel. The manner in which he was heard afforded him a proof of the efficacy of his preaching; and the superstructure, of which the foundations had been laid by fraud, was to be perfected by force.
Inconsistency and contradiction were to him as particles of dust; and they did not for a moment impede his course, though they disgraced his character. He proclaimed, in very lofty terms, the justice, the goodness and the mercy of God; yet that God, so just, so merciful and so good, was to be averted from the Mussulman who “ wore silk, the excrement of a worm ;" who forgot to turn to a certain point in the heavens at a certain hour of the day; who refused to abandon his social and religious duties, for the useless trials and formalities of the pilgrimage ; or who was not prepared to sustain the creed of Islem by the persecution of the infidel. In the same manner, chastity, temperence, charity and humility were, at one moment, announced by the prophet as the most indispensable of virtues; yet, at another, he legalized not only for himself but for his followers, the scandals of libertinism, and the licence of the Harem; and, restricting the mercies of God to the children of the Koran, consigned the rest of men to the tuition of the sword. But these inconsistencies were not undesigned. They may be perpetually traced to the sensuality of his passions, or the selfishness of his policy; and if, when his policy and his passions were silent, he was a moralist and a sage, he became, as they impelled him, a
preceptor of licentiousness, of intolerance, and of persecution.
Among the tribes which he addressed were various sects of various religions; and Jews, and Christians, and Idolators, divided and subdivided into a diversity of holy factions, were blended in the same mass of discordant population. Of these, the last were sunk in the grossness of the most perverse superstition; and the Christian and the Jew had corrupted or forgotten the pure doctrines of Moses and of Christ. Did the Prophet of Mecca go forth among a people thus various and erroneous in their creed, to reclaim and to enlighten them? And was he affectionately and zealously employed in promoting among them a sounder faith, and a more perfect morality? If so, where are the fruits ? But if, on the contrary, he formed his religion “ to become a
to become a point of union or compromise to the divided opinions of the sects “ around him, and so to embrace the principles
common to them all, that each party might discover " in it an honourable admission of the fundamental “ doctrines of its own faith t;" we may easily determine the motives of the Impostor in these vile and unreluctant concessions; and we may detect in the lawgiver whose pretended object was the good of mankind, the selfishness of the ambitious and libertine Impostor who knew no good beyond his own.
Every motive that can operate on feeble or carnal minds, was impressed for the same purpose, and with similar success. Fear was awed, and hope kindled, by views of celestial wrath, or assurances of celestial recompence. In this world the infidel, if refractory, was to perish by the sword *; in the next, to endure, without end or diminution, whatever hell contains of anguish and horror; and the language in which he was thus menaced, was well calculated to accelerate his submission to the Prophet and the law. But the faithful exulted in a different allotment. They were, in this life, to repudiate their wives at will, to replace them with others as appetite or caprice might direct, and to supply the deficiency which was yet thought to exist, by selecting as many concubines as they pleased from the number of their captives. In the next life they were to enjoy a more lavish felicity They were not told, indeed, of intellectual delights, of progressive wisdom, of advancing holiness, of celestial contemplations, of angelic society. It was their earthly passions which were to be addressed; and the promise of a Paradise unspeakably voluptuous, with its robes of silk, its palaces of gems, its rivers, its shades, its groves, its couches, its delicious wines, its interminable feasts, and its seventy-two virgins, of resplendent beauty and eternal youth, was designed and calculated to intoxicate the imagination, to inflame the desires, and to provoke and perpetuate the zeal, of the followers of Mahomet.
* The language of Paley (Evidences of Christianity, chap. ix. sect. 2), is more emphatic on this subject, than that of Sale in his preliminary discourse.
Yet the Prophet did not hold out an equal allotment to all the faithful. His business was war and conquest, and war and conquest required soldiers and heroes. He was, therefore, to excite a spirit
“ Strike off their heads, strike off all the ends of their fingers, kill the idolators wherever you shall find them.” Koran, ch. viii. vol. 2. p. 140, and vol. ii. ch. ix. p. 149. The vengeance of the menace was often executed to the letter.
of intrepid enthusiasm in his followers, and to gather - round his standard a race. zealous for conflict with
the infidel, and prepared, in the cause of his religion, to conquer or die. For those, then, who glowed with the zeal of the warrior or the fanatic, he reserved the more resplendent glories, and the more seductive delights, of his carnal paradise. The bribe was not offered without effect. A race of warriors speedily surrounded the master Arab; and an army, fired with the frenzy of proselytism or of extermination, was created and sustained. The language and promises which kindled this holy ferocity, let the impostor himself more particularly utter. “God “ hath, indeed, promised Paradise to every believer ; “ but he prefers those who fight for the faith, before “ those who sit still, by adding unto them a great “ reward. Do ye believe the giving drink to the pil
grims, the visiting of the holy temple, to be actions
as meritorious as those performed by him who “ fighteth for the religion of God? They shall not " be held equal by God; but they who employ their
person in defence of the faith, shall be in the
highest degree of honour with God, and the Lord “ shall send them tidings of mercy and good will, "pand gardens wherein they shall enjoy everlasting “ pleasures*. For the sword is the key of heaven and 6. hell; and a drop of blood shed in the cause of God,
a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two “ months spent in fasting and prayer. Whosoever “ falls in battle, his sins are forgiven in the day of
judgment; his wounds shall be resplendent as “ vermillion, and odoriferous as musk, and the loss
* Sale's Koran, ch. iv. p. 73. Ib. ch. ix. p. 151.
“ of his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of “ angels and cherubims*."
In this manner the prophet adapted his doctrines to times and circumstances, and thus, as prudence and policy required, he preached. The public temper was soothed and conciliated, the habits and prejudices of men were indulged; the Jewish, the Christian, and the Pagan Arab, were equally flattered by an artful adaptation of the new religion to their prescriptive persuasions; the authority of command, the force of menace, the seductions of promise, were employed with sagacity and success; and heaven and hell, in all the blessedness of the one, and all the horrors of the other, were rendered instrumental to the accomplishment of a plan, which, after the experiment of a few years, seemed to have nothing less in view than the universal domination of a false religion, and the subjugation of mankind to the authority of an impostor.
In his private life, the Prophet was not less corrupt than in his public. Whatever may be the moral wisdom of his precepts, it was contradicted by the unrestricted vices of his life. He seemed to have forgotten that the principle preached is best elucidated by the example of the preacher; and that religion is supported by at least one essential and cogent argument, which is not merely promulgated by the lips, but recommended by the practice of him who proclaims it. In the whole course of his career, the
* See Gibbon, vol. ix. 256. The author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire indulges his philosophical moderation in the life of the Prophet; and Julian the apostate, and Mahomet the apostle, seem to have experienced, in an equal degree, the favour of the historian.