witnesses. It is true that the whole Moslem world was impelled by the same
tendency to magnify Mahomet without regard to reason or consistency. None
would have dared to question a miracle for its inherent improbability, or on a
critical conclusion as to the, insufficiency of the evidence; the attempt at
so dangerous a precedent would have placed the critic in jeopardy of his life.
So far, then, as relates to the exaltation of the Prophet, there would have
been none to question. But almost every tradition is connected also at some
point with an individual, a family, or a tribe, whose memory was affected for
good or evil by the story. And here the factions and jealousies which pervaded
the very earliest Mahometan society would come into play as an important check
upon any deviation from the truth. We may be very certain that no tradition
affecting Abu Sofiân or Abbâs, Othmân or Aly, would escape the narrowest
criticism by some opposing party, in so far as its interests were concerned.
And since every communication with Mahomet handed down by tradition casts a
halo around the Companion so honoured, we have in this fact alone a very,
important restraint upon the licence of legend and episode, a restraint
effective in proportion to the earliness of the period at which the tradition
first took fixed shape. Hence in point of fact it is generally possible, with
more or less of certainty, to separate the grain of fact from the husk of
overlying fiction in which it has been handed down; and through the divine
effulgence encircling the Prophet, to distinguish, dimly it may be but yet
with some assurance, the outlines of the man.