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source of strength for all who have to interchange thought with Mahometans, and adds prestige and influence; while ignorance of its contents must weaken the power of carrying conviction to the Moslem heart. Before all things, then, he that would deal with the Mahometan world, or even understand the principles which underlie its action, must make himself conversant with the Corân.

But the Corân, taken by itself, is perhaps of all books the least intelligible. Of the Bible, although the circumstances under which various parts were composed, and even the names and eras of the writers are sometimes obscure, yet the substance is so arranged as seldom to leave the meaning, whether of the narrative or didactic portions, doubtful. With the Corân, on the contrary, although the main outlines of the author's life are well known, the whole is confused, and the drift often hard of comprehension. The books or chapters follow one another without any chronological sequence, and the books themselves are frequently composed of fragments put together with no regard either to time or subject. To attain, therefore, a clear idea of the design of this disjointed composition, and of the bearing of its several parts, is only possible in connection with the study of the author's life. With this object in view, I propose to sketch very briefly the outlines of the career of Mahomet, confining myself to the passages needful to illustrate the Corân.

Mahomet was born at Mecca in the year 570 A.D. That city, situate on the great caravan route from Yemen to Syria, was from time immemorial famous


for the Káaba, and the neighbouring places of pilgrimage, which were by local tradition consecrated to the memory of Abraham and Ishmael. The leading tribe had for many generations been the Coreish, which discharged the influential offices connected with the Temple and the pilgrimage, and was predominant in the councils of the city. Mahomet sprang from the Bani Hâshim, a noble, though at this time somewhat decaying, branch of the tribe. His great-grandfather was married to a lady of Medina, and Mahomet was thus connected with one of the ruling families of that city, the Bani Khazraj. Abdallah, his father, was poor, and died on a mercantile trip to Syria shortly before his birth. His mother, Amina, according to the custom of Mecca, put the infant out to nurse with a Bedouin tribe; and there the child remained for four or five years, acquiring the free habits and the pure tongue of the nomad race. His foster-mother was alarmed by epileptic symptoms, which more than once attacked her charge, and finally induced her to relinquish it. About a year after, Amina took the lad to visit his relatives at Medina, but on the way home she died; so that in, his sixth year Mahomet was left an orphan. His uncle, Abu Tâlib, became his guardian, and to the day of his death faithfully discharged the trust. While yet a child, Mahomet accompanied his uncle on a mercantile expedition to Syria. The youth of Mahomet passed uneventfully. Abu Tâlib was poor, and, finding it difficult to provide for his nephew in addition to his own family, procured for him the commission from a rich widow to superintend a


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