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Political supremacy attained by the conquest of Mecca

THE conquest of Mecca opens a new era in the progress of Islam. It practically decided the struggle for supremacy in Arabia. Followed by the victory of Honein, it not only removed the apprehension of any future attack upon Medina, but elevated Mahomet to a position in which it was natural for him to assert a paramount authority throughout the Peninsula. It is true that no such authority had ever been vested in the chiefs of Mecca. The suzerainty of Arabia, enjoyed in remote times by the kings of Himyar,1 had been transferred to the dynasty of Hira, which represented the court of Persia. But Hira had now fallen to the rank of an ordinary Satrapy; and the Cliosroes, discomfited by the Arabs themselves on the field of Dzu Car, and more lately humbled by the Roman arms, no longer commanded respect.2 There was actually at the moment no political power paramount in Arabia.

1 See Introduction, vol. i. ch. iv. sec. v.

2 Ibid. sec. ii. pp. clxxxii. et seq.

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Besides Mahomet himself no one laid claim to the dignity, or ever dreamed of aspiring to the claim. The possession of Mecca now imparted a colour of right to his pretensions; for Mecca was the spiritual centre of the country, to which the tribes from every quarter yielded a reverential homage. The conduct of the annual pilgrimage, the custody of the holy house, the intercalation of the year, the commutation at will of the sacred months, ---- institutions which affected all Arabia,----belonged by ancient privilege to the Coreish, and were now in the hands of Mahomet.1 Throughout Arabia, who could with greater propriety assert his right to a paramount authority than the Prophet of Medina and the conqueror of Mecca?

Possession of Mecca increased Mahomet's spiritual power

Moreover, it had been the special care or Mahomet artfully to interweave with the reformed faith all essential parts of, the ancient ceremonial, The one was made an inseparable portion of the other. It was not, indeed, till the expiry of another year that Mahomet ventured to take full advantage of his position, by admitting none but the adherents of Islam to the Kaaba and its rites. Yet the spiritual power which the author of the new faith had gained by combining it with the Pilgrimage, was

1 In illustration of the power of the Coreish to modify the practices of the Pilgrimage, and introduce new customs, see the account of the Homs, established after Mahomet's birth. Introduction, vol. i. ch. iv. p. cclxvii.

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universally felt from the moment that Mecca submitted to his arms. There remained but one religion for Arabia, and that was Islam.

which, in its turn, involved an absolute secular authority.

Again, the new religion was so closely bound together with the civil polity, that the recognition of Mahomet's spiritual power necessarily involved a simultaneous submission to his secular jurisdiction. It was an essential tenet or Islam, that the convert should not only submit to its teaching, and adopt its ritual and code of ethics, but also that he should render an implicit obedience in all things " to the Lord and to his Prophet," and that he should pay tithes annually (not indeed as tribute, but as a religious offering, which sanctified the rest of his wealth), towards the charities and expenses of Mahomet and his growing empire.1

1 The Tithes are called Sadacat, "alms "- the portion of every believer's wealth sacred to the service of God, and described in the Coran as purifying the rest. The practice was evidently borrowed from the Jews, who called their alms by the same name, Sadaca, whence the Greek in Matthew, v. i. See Sale's Introduction, sec. iv.

For the collection of the tithes, the verb (to take the tenth part) is used. K. Wackadi, 621. By this no doubt is meant a tenth of the increase; though this is not Stated. In after times, the ordinary proportion taken was 2 per cent. of the whole (see Sale, as above), which might very well represent a tenth of the increase.

For the purposes to which Mahomet applied the tithes, see Sura, ix. 62, quoted above, p.155.

Mahomet assisted debtors from the fund thus collected. A debtor once applied for aid --- "Wait," said Mahomet, "Till the tithes come in, and then I will help thee." K. Wackidi, 60 .

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Collectors deputed to gather the thithes, 1st Moharrum, A.H. IX 20th April, 630

It was under these circumstances that, on his return from Jierrana, at the opening of the ninth year of the Hegira, the Prophet demanded from the tribes which had tendered their adhesion, the prescribed offerings or tithes. Collectors were deputed by him in every direction to assess a tenth part of all the increase, and to bring it to Medina.1 They were well received, and accomplished their mission without obstruction, excepting only the following instance.

The B. Tamim having driven away a tax-gatherer, are attacked and a number taken prisoner

A branch of the Bani Tamim chanced to be encamped close at hand, when the tax-gatherer arrived to gather the tithes of a neighbouring tribe. While the herds and flocks of their neighbours were being collected, in order that the tenth might be taken from them the Bani Tamim, anticipating a similar demand upon themselves, came forward armed with bows and swords, and drove the tax- gatherer away. Mahomet resolved on making a prompt example of the offenders. Uyeina, with fifty of his Arab horsemen,2 travelling with haste

1 Nine such parties are mentioned by the Secretary as having started, on the flrst day of the new year, to the following tribes: Tamim, Aslam, Ghifar, Suleim, Mozeina, Joheina, Fazara, Kilab, Bani Kab (Khozhite), Hodeim (?). K. Wackidi, 132. They were instructed to take the best and most unblemished part of the property, but not to interfere with the capital or source of increase; at least, so I read it ----

K. Wackidi, 132 .

2 There was not one man either of Mecca or Medina in the party. K.Wackidi, 57 , 132.

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and secrecy, fell unexpectedly upon them, and waking above fifty prisoners, men, women, and children,-carried them off to Medina, where they were kept by Mahomet in confinement.1

They send a deputation for their release

The Bani Tamim, some of whom had fought by the side of Mahomet at Mecca and Honein, lost no time in sending a deputation, consisting of eighty or ninety persons headed by their chief men, to beg for the release of the prisoners. As these passed through the streets of Medina, the captive women and children recognized their friends, and raised a loud cry of distress. Moved by the sight, the chiefs hastened onwards to obtain their liberty. They reached the Mosque, and after waiting impatiently for some time in its spacious court, at last called out in aloud and familiar voice (for they were rude children of the desert,) to Mahomet, who was in one of the female apartments adjoining the hall of audience, - "O Mahomet, come forth unto us!" The Prophet was displeased at their roughness and importunity, for he loved to be addressed in low and submissive accents. But as the mid-day prayer was at hand, he came forth ; and while Bilal was summoning the people, he entered into discourse with the strangers and listened to their application.

1 Eleven men, eleven women, and thirty children.

2 Among them was Acra, one of the chiefs, who had received one hundred camels from Mahomet at Jierrana. K. Wackidi, 132.

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The poet and orator of the B. Tamim worsted by Thabit and Hassan

The prayers being ended, Mahomet seated himself in the court of the Mosque, when a scene occurred illustrative at once of Arab manners, and of the successful readiness with which Mahomet adapted himself to the circumstances of the moment. The chiefs sought leave to contend in rhetoric and poetry with the orators and poets of Medina.1 It was hardly the right issue for Mahomet on which to place his cause; but to have refused would have injured him in the eyes of these wild Bedouins; and the Prophet was confident in the superior eloquence of his followers. So he gave permission. First arose Otarid, the orator of the tribe, and in an harangue of the ordinary boastful style, lauded his own people for their prowess and nobility. When he had ended, Mahomet motioned to Thabit ibn Cays that he should reply. Thabit descanted on the glory of Mahomet as a messenger from Heaven, on the devotion of the Refugees, and on the faithful and generous friendship of the citizens of Medina. He finished by threatening destruction against all who should refuse Islam. Then Zibrican, the Bedouin bard, stood up, and recited poetry, in which he dilated on the greatness and unequalled hospitality of the Bani Tamim. When be sat down, Hassan the son of Thabit, by

1Al Acra said --- " Give us permission to speak; for, verily, my praise is an ornament and my reproach a disgrace." - "Nay," replied the Prophet, "thou speakest falsely; that may be said or the great and Almighty God alone." K. Wackidi, 58.

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Mahomet's command, replied in glowing and well- measured verse. After dwelling upon the more ordinary topics, he ended thus :-

Children of Darim!1 contend not with us: Your boasting will turn to your shame."
"Ye he when ye contend with us for glory. What are ye but our Servants, our Nurses, and our Attendants?"
"If ye be come to save your lives, and your property, that it may not be distributed as booty;-
Then make not unto God any equal, embrace Islam, and abandon the wild manners of the Heathen."2

The strangers were astonished at the beauty of Hassan's poetry, and abashed at the force and point of the concluding verses.- "By the Lord!" they said, "how rich is this man's fortune! His poet, as well as his orator, surpasseth ours in eloquence!"

Mahomet liberates the prisoners

Mahomet liberated their prisoners, and having entertained them hospitably, dismissed the chiefs with rich presents and provisions for the way. All the branches of the tribe which had not yet given in their adhesion were now converted.

Notice of this deputation in the Coran

But the Prophet did not forget the first rude and impatient Bedouin deputation. To guard against such familiarity for the future, the following divine commandment was promulgated: -

1 Darim, an ancestor of the tribe.

2 The orations are, no doubt, apocryphal; but portions at least, and especially the concluding verses or Hassan's poetical effusion, are probably genuine. There is nothing in the latter anticipative of universal conquest, as there certainly is in the oration or Thabit. Poetry was more likely to be preserved in its original form than prose. See Canon III. E, and note, vol. i. p. lxxxv. The whole poem is given by M. C. de Perceval, v. iii. 272.

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"O ye that believe! Go not in advance (in any matter) before God and his Prophet; and fear God, for God heareth and knoweth."
"O ye that believe! Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet; nor speak loudly in discourse with him as the loud speech of one of you with another, lest your works become vain, and ye perceive it not."
"Verily, they that lower their voices in the presence of the Apostle of God, are those whose hearts God math disposed unto piety. These shall have pardon and an abundant reward."
"Verily as to those that call unto thee from behind the private apartments, the most part of them understand not."
"If they had waited patiently, until thou wentest forth unto them, it had been better for them. But God is forgiving and merciful."1

Deputation from the B. Mustalick. Muharram, A.H. IX. May, A.D. 630

The tax-gatherer deputed to the Bani Mustalick, on approaching their encampment, was encountered by a large body of the tribe who went forth on camels to meet him.2 Apprehending violence, he fled back to Medina; and Mahomet was preparing a party to avenge the affront, when a deputation appeared to explain the circumstance. What had been mistaken for hostile preparations, were in reality (they said) marks of joy and welcome. The deputation was received with courtesy. The tax-gatherer was reprehended, and his misconduct deemed not unworthy of a special revelation. Another of his followers was then deputed by Mahomet to levy the tithes and to instruct the people in their religious duties.3

1 Sura, xlix. 1-5.

2 The Bani Mustalick had held steadily to their profession of Islam.

3 K.Wackidi, 132 ; Hishami, 314. The passage in the Coran relating to this incident is in immediate continuation of that just

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Expeditions during the summer of A.H IX. A.D. 630,

During the summer of this year several lesser expeditions were undertaken for the chastisement of rebellious or recusant tribes.1 They are marked only by the ordinary features of surprise, and the capture of prisoners and plunder. The largest of them was directed against a combination of the Abyssinians with the people of Jedda, the nature of which is not clearly explained.2

against the Abyssinians at Jedda. 2nd Rabi, July.

It was, however, deemed by the Prophet of sufficient importance to require the services of an army of three hundred

quoted in the matter of the Bani Tamim, and runs as follows "O ye that believe! If an evil man come unto you with intelligence, make careful inquiry, lest ye injure a people through inadvertence, and afterwards repent of what ye have done. And know that, verily, the Apostle of God is amongst you. If he were to listen to you in many matters, ye would fall into sin," &C. Sura, ix. 6, 7.

1 I may note the following expeditions as given by the Secretary, p.132, et seq. besides those given in my text.

In Safar (May) Cotba woe sent with twenty camel riders against the B. Khatham, to Blesha, near Turba. He surprised and killed many of the tribe, and drove away their camels.

In the 1st Rabi (June) Dhabak was deputed to Corta to call on the B. Kilab to embrace Islam. On their refusal, he attacked and discomfited them.

In the 2nd Rabi (July) Okkasha ibn Mohain was despatched with a force towards the Syrian frontier, to subdue the B. Odzra and Bali, as will be further noticed at the beginning of the following chapter.

2 The circumstance is remarkable, and not the less so on account of the brevity of the Secretary, and the silence of the other biographers. Apparently, a body of Abyssinians had crossed the Red Sea to join the Arabs of Jedda in opposing Mahomet. Were the eyes of the Najashi now opened to the futility of the expectation that Mahomet would support Christianity? K. Wackidi, 133.

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men. This force reached an island on the shore of the Red Sea which the enemy had made their rendezvous, and forced them to retire.

Campaign against the B. Tay: conversion of Hatim Tay. 2nd Rabi, July.

About the same time, Ali was sent in command of two hundred horse,1 to destroy the temple of Fula belonging to the Bani Tay, a tribe divided between the profession of Idolatry and the Christian faith.2 He performed his mission effectually, and returned July. with many prisoners and laden with plunder. Amongst the prisoners was the daughter of Hatim Tay, the Christian Bedouin Arab so famous for his generosity. This chieftain had died many years before; and his son Adi, on the first alarm of Ali's approach, had fled with his family to Syria. His sister prostrated herself at the feet of Mahomet, and told her plaintive story. She was at once released, and presented with a change of raiment and a camel, on which, joining the first Syrian caravan, she went in quest of her brother. At her solicitation, Adi presented himself before the Prophet, and having embraced Islam, was again appointed to the chiefship of his tribe.3

1 So K.Wackidi, p.68. At p.133 the number is given at one hundred and fifty, of whom only fifty were horse, and one hundred men mounted on camels.

2 See Introduction, vol. i. p. ccxxviii., where there is also a notice of Hatim Tay.

3 Or rather to collect the tithes of his tribe. K. Wackidi, 133; Hishami 424. There is a long and romantic tale in the latter; but its details are quite apocryphal: e.g., in his conference with Adi, Mahomet bids him not to be scandalized at the present

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Conversion of the poet Kab ibn Zoheir

The submission of the poet, Kab, son of Zoheir, took place about this time. His father was one of the most distinguished poets of Arabia ;1 and the poetical mantle descended upon several members of his family. After the capture of Mecca, his brother Bojair wrote to warn Kab of the fate which had overtaken certain of the poets there, and urged him either to come in to Medina, or seek for himself elsewhere a secure asylum. Kab was imprudent enough to reply in verses significant of displeasure at his brother's conversion. Mahomet, highly incensed, gave utterance to threats ominous for the safety of Kab. Again the poet was warned, and urged by his brother to delay no longer. At last, in despair, he resolved to present himself before Mahomet and sue for pardon. A stranger appeared in the Mosque: addressing the Prophet he said, "Kab

poverty (?) of the Moslems, as the time was at hand when wealth would pour in upon them, so that they would not have room to receive it; neither was he to be offended at the numbers and power of their enemies, as a woman would soon be able to travel in security alone from Cadesia to Mecca; the white towers of Babylon would be conquered, &c Hishami, 426.

A deputation from the Bani Tay, headed by their chief, Zeid al Khail, came to Medina to ransom the prisoners, soon after Ali's expedition. Mahomet was charmed with Zeid, of whose fame, both as a warrior and a poet, he had long heard. He changed his name to Zeid al Kheir (the beneficent), granted him a large tract of country, and sent him away laden with presents. See vol. i. p. ccxxviii.

1 See his Moallaca, translated by an M.C. de Perceval, v. ii. 521; see also vol i. p. ccxxvi. note.

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the son of Zoheir cometh unto thee repentant and believing. Wilt thou give him quarter if I bring him to thee?" The promise having been vouchsafed, the stranger made known that he himself was Kab. To signalize his gratitude, Kab presented to Mahomet the famous "Poem of the Mantle," in which he lauded the generosity and glory of his benefactor. When reciting it in public, he came to this verse: -

Verily, the Prophet is a Light illuminating the World, A naked Sword from the armoury of God, ---

Mahomet, unable to restrain his, admiration and delight, took his own mantle from off his shoulders and threw it to the poet. The precious gift (from which the poem derived its name,) was treasured up with care. It passed into the hands of the Caliphs, and was by them preserved, as one of the regalia of the empire, until Baghdad was sacked by the Tartars.1 To gain over such a poet was no empty triumph, for Kab wielded a real power which was now thrown as a fresh weight into the scale of Islam.

Deputations from Arab tribes

The Mosque of Mahomet began this year to be the scene of frequent embassies from all quarters

1 Hishami 389; C. de Perceval, iii. 280. The poem has been published by Freytag, with a Latin translation and valuable preface. Haloe, 1823. The mantle was bought by the Caliphs from the heirs of Kab for 40,000 dirhems.

The Khirca i Sharzifa, which forms one of the relics at Constantinople, is believed by the Turks to be this self-same mantle. But

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A.H. IX., X. A.D. 630, 631.

of Arabia. His supremacy was everywhere recognized; and from the most distant parts of the Peninsula,- from Yemen and Hadhramaut, from Mahra, Oman, and Bahrein, from the borders of Syria and the outskirts of Persia, the tribes hastened to prostrate themselves before the rising potentate, and by an early submission to secure his favour. They were uniformly treated with consideration and courtesy; their representations were received in public in the court of the Mosque, which formed the hall of audience; and there all matters requiring the commands of Mahomet, - the collection or tithes and tribute, the grant of lands, recognition or conferment of authority and office, adjustment of international disputes,- were discussed and settled. Simple though its exterior was, and unpretending its forms and usages, more real power was wielded, and affairs of greater importance transacted in the court-yard of the Mosque of Mahomet, than in many an imperial palace.

Mode in which they were treated

The messengers and embassies were quartered by Mahomet in the houses of the chief Citizens of Medina, by whom they were hospitably entertained. On departure they always received an ample sum for the expenses of the road, and generally some

this is ordinarily understood to have been burned by the Tartar Khan. Others say that the mantle which was burned on that occasion was another, presented by Mahomet to the people of Ayla, on the expedition which will be related in the following chapter. See below, p.180.

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further present corresponding with their rank. A written treaty was often granted, guaranteeing the privileges of the tribe, and not unfrequently a teacher was sent back with the embassy to instruct the newly converted people in the duties of Islam and the requirements of Mahomet, and to see that every remnant of idolatry was obliterated.

The IX of the Hegira, called "The Year of Deputations

These embassies having commenced in the ninth year of the Hegira, it is styled in tradition "the year of deputations;" but they were almost equally numerous in the tenth year. It would be tedious and unprofitable to enumerate them all. Those that have been already mentioned, or which will be incidentally noticed in future pages, afford a sufficient specimen of the rest.

The embassy from Najran noticed in the second volume

I have before, in its appropriate chapter, described the remarkable embassy from the Christians of Najran, which visited Medina about this period.1

1 See vol. ii. ch. vii. p.299. The embassies of the B. Taglilib and B. Hanifa are also there noticed.

The Life of Mahomet, Volume IV [Table of Contents]

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