Click to View





The name Arabia.

THE Arabs, and the country they inhabit, which themselves call Jazirat al Arab, or the Peninsula of the Arabians, but we Arabia, were so named from Araba, a small territory in the province of Tahama;1 to which Yarab the son of Qahtan, the father of the ancient Arabs, gave his name, and where, some ages after, dwelt Ismail the son of Abraham by Hagar. The Christian writers for several centuries speak of them under the appellation of Saracens, the most certain derivation of which word is from shark, the east, where the descendants of Joctan, the

* Whilst regarding this Preliminary Discourse as a most masterly, and on the whole reliable, presentation of the peculiar doctrines, rites, ceremonies, customs, and institutions of Islam, we recognize the fact that more modern research has brought to light many things concerning the history of the ancient Arabs which greatly modify the statements made in the early paragraphs of this chapter. We therefore refer the reader to the most valuable works of M. C. de Perceval Hist. des Arabes, a masterly digest of which may be found in the Introduction to Muir's Life of Mahomet, chap. iii; also to the works of Dr. Sprenger, Biography of the Prophet, &C. E.M.W.

1 Pocock, Specim. Hist. Arab., p.33.


Qahtan of the Arabs, are placed by Moses,1 and in which quarter they dwelt in respect to the Jews 2.

Limits of Arabia

The name of Arabia (used in a more extensive sense) sometimes comprehends all that large tract of land bounded by the river Euphrates, the Persian Gulf, the Sindian, Indian, and Red Seas, and part of the Mediterranean: above two-thirds of which country, that is, Arabia properly so called, the Arabs have possessed almost from the Flood; and have made themselves masters of the rest, either by settlements or continual incursions; for which reason the Turks and Persians at this day call the whole Arabistan, or the country of the Arabs. But the limits of Arabia, in its more usual and proper sense, are much narrower as reaching no farther northward than the Isthmus, which runs from Aila to the head of the Persian Gulf, and the borders of the territory of Kufa; which tract of land the Greeks nearly comprehended under the name of Arabia the Happy. The Eastern geographers make Arabia Petræa to belong partly to Egypt, and partly to Sham or Syria, and the Desert Arabia they call the Deserts of Syria.3 Proper Arabia is by the Oriental writers generally divided into five provinces,4 viz., Yaman, Hijaz, Tahama, Najd, and Yamamma; to which some add Bahrain, as a sixth, but this province the more exact make part of Irak;5 others reduce them all to two, Yaman and Hijaz, the last including the three other provinces of Tahama, Najd, and Yamama.

The province of Yaman

The province of Yaman, so called either from its situa­tion to the right hand, or south of the temple of Makkah, or else from the happiness and verdure of its soil, extends itself along the Indian Ocean from Aden to Cape Rasalgat; part of the Red Sea bounds it on the west and south sides,

1 Gen. x. 30.

2 See Pocock, Specim., 33, 34.

3 Golius ad Alfragan, 78, 79.

4 Strabo says Arabia Felix was in his time divided into five kingdoms, i 16, p. 1129.

5 Gol. and Alfragan, 79.


and the province bf Hijaz on the north.1 It is subdivided into several lesser provinces, as Hadramaut, Shihr, Oman, Najran, &c., of which Shihr alone produces the frankin­cense2. The metropolis of Yaman is Sanaa, a very ancient city in former times called Ozal,* and much celebrated for its delightful situation; but the prince at present resides about five leagues northward from thence, at a place no less pleasant, called Hisn al Mawahib, or the Castle of Delights.3

This country has been famous from all antiquity for the happiness of its climate, its fertility and riches, which induced Alexander the Great, after his return from his Indian expedition, to form a design of conquering it, and fixing there his royal seat; but his death, which happened soon after, prevented the execution of this project.5

So-called Arabian produce brought form India.

Yet, in reality, great part of the riches which the ancients imagined were the produce of Arabia, came really from the Indies and the coasts of Africa; for the Egyptians, who had engrossed that trade, which was then carried on by way of the Red Sea, to themselves, industriously con­cealed the truth of the matter, and kept their ports shut to prevent foreigners penetrating into those countries, or receiving any information thence; and this precaution of theirs on the one side, and the deserts, unpassable to strangers, on the other, were the reason why Arabia was so little known to the Greeks and Romans. The delight­fulness and plenty of Yaman are owing to its mountains; for all that part which lies along the Red Sea is a dry, barren desert, in some places ten or twelve leagues over, but in return bounded by those mountains, which being

* "Or this was the name of its builder; see Kamoos"(Lane). E.M.W.

1 La Roque, Voyage de l'Arab. Heur., 121.

2 Gol. ad Alfragan, 79, 87.

3 Voyage de l'Arab. Heur., 232.

4 4 Vide Dionys. Peneges., V.927, &c.

5 Strabo, 1. 16, p. 1132; Arrian, 161.


Produce of Yaman

well watered, enjoy an almost continual spring, and, be­sides coffee, the peculiar produce of this country, yield great plenty and variety of fruits, and in particular excellent corn, grapes, and spices. There are no rivers of note in this country, for the streams which at certain times of the year descend from the mountains, seldom reach the sea, being for the most part drunk up and lost in the burning sands of that coast.1

The soil of the other provinces is much more barren than that of Yaman; the greater part of their territories being covered with dry sands, or rising into rocks, inter­spersed here and there with some fruitful spots, which receive their greatest advantages from their water and palm-trees.

The Hijaz - its boundaries.

The province of Hijaz, so named because it divides Najd from Tahama, is bounded on the south by Yaman and Tahama, on the west by the Red Sea, on the north by the deserts of Syria, and on the east by the province of Najd.2 This province is famous for its two chief cities, Makkah and Madina, one of which is celebrated for its temple, and for having given birth to Muhammad; and the other for being the place of his residence for the last ten years of his life, and of his interment.

Makkah described.

Makkah, sometimes also called Bakkah, which words are synonymous, and signify a place of great concourse, is certainly one of the most ancient cities of the world: it is by some 3 thought to be the Mesa of the Scripture,4 a name not unknown to the Arabians, and supposed to be taken from one of Ismail's sons.5 It is seated in a stony and barren valley, surrounded on all sides with mountains.6 The length of Makkah from south to north is about two miles, and its breadth from the foot of the mountain

1 Voyage de l'Arab. Heur., 121,123,153.

2 Vide Gol. ad Alfrag, 98; Abulfeda, Descr. Arab., p.5.

3 R. Saadias in version. Arab. Pentat. Sefer Juchasin, 135 b.

4 Gen. X. 30.

5 Gol. ad Alfrag., 82; see Gen. xxv. 15.

6 Gol., ib. 198. See Pitts' Account of the Religion and Manners of the Muhammadans, p.96.


Ajyad to the top of another called Koaikaa'n, about a mile1. In the midst of this space stands the city, built of stone cut from the neighbouring mountains.2 There being no springs at Makkah,3 at least none but what are bitter and unfit to drink,4 except only the well Zamzam, the water of which, though far the best, yet cannot be drank of any continuance, being brackish,* and causing eruptions in those who drink plentifully of it, the inhabitants are obliged to use rain-water, which they catch in cisterns.6 But this not being sufficient, several attempts were made to bring water thither from other places by aqueducts; and particularly about Muhammad's time, Zubair, one of the principal men of the tribe of Quraish, endeavoured, at a great expense, to supply the city with water from Mount Arafat, but without success; yet this was effected not many years ago, being begun at the charge of a wife of Sulaiman the Turkish emperor.7 But long before this another aqueduct had been made from a spring at a considerable distance, which was, after several years' labour, finished by the Khalifah al Muktadir 8.

The soil about Makkah is so very barren as to produce no fruits but what are common in the deserts, though the prince or Sharif has a garden well planted at his castle

* Lane adds the following note:- "Sale here adds 'being brackish,'but Burckhardt says the water of the Zemzem 'is heavy to the taste, and sometimes in its colour resembles milk; but, he adds, 'it is perfectly sweet, and differs very much from that of the brackish wells dispersed over the town. When first drawn up, it is slightly tepid, resembling in this respect many other fountains of the Hejaz.'- ­Travels in Arabia, p. 144. I have also drunk the water of Zemzem brought in a china bottle to Cairo, and found it perfectly sweet." E. M. W.

1 Sharíf al Edrísi apud Poc. Spec. p 122.

2 Ibid.

3 Gol. ad Alfragan, 99.

4 Sharíf al Edrísi, ubi supra, 124.

5 Ibid. and Pitts, ubi supra, p. 107.

6 Gol. ad Alfragan, 99.

7 7 Ibid. supra, 124.

8 Sharíf al Edrísi, ubi supra.


of Marbaa, about three miles westward from the city, where he usually resides. Having therefore no corn or grain of their own growth, they are obliged to fetch it from other places1 and Hasham, Muhammad's great- grandfather, then prince of his tribe, the more effectually to supply them with provisions, appointed two caravans to set out yearly for that purpose, the one in summer, and the other in winter:2 these caravans of purveyors are mentioned in the Qur'an.

How the people of Mekkah subsist.

The provisions brought by them were distributed also twice a year, viz., in the month of Rajab, and at the arrival of the pilgrims. They are supplied with dates in great plenty from the adjacent country, and with grapes from Táyif, about sixty miles* distant, very few growing at Makkah. The inhabitants of this city are generally very rich, being considerable gainers by the prodigious concourse of people of almost all nations at the yearly pilgrimage, at which time there is a great fair or mart for all kinds of merchandise. They have also great numbers of cattle, and particularly of camels: however, the poorer sort cannot but live very indifferently in a place where almost every necessary of life must be purchased with money. Notwithstanding this great steri­lity near Makkah, yet you are no sooner out of its territory than you meet on all sides with plenty of good springs and streams of running water, with a great many gardens and cultivated lands 3.

The temple of Makkah, and the reputed holiness of this territory, will be treated of in a more proper place.

Madina or Yathrab.

Madina, which till Mohammad's retreat thither was called Yathrab, is a walled city about half as big as Makkah 4, built in a plain, salt in many places, yet tolerably fruitful, particularly in dates, but more especially near

*Burckhardt says seventy-two miles. Travels in Arabia, p.69. E. M. W.

1 Sharíf al Edrísi, ubi supra.

2 Poc. Spec., p 51.

3 Sharíf al Edrísi, ubi supra, 125.

4 Id., Vulgò Geogr. Nubiensi., 5


the mountains, two of which, Ohod on the north, and Air on the south, are about two leagues distant. Here lies Muhammad interred1 in a magnificent building, covered with a cupola, and adjoining to the east side of the great temple, which is built in the midst of the city 2 .

The provinces of Tahama, Najd, and Yamama founded.

The province of Tahama was so named from the vehement heat of its sandy soil, and is also called Gaur from its low situation; it is bounded on the west by the Red Sea, and on the other sides by Hijaz and Yaman, extending almost from Makkah to Aden 3.

The province of Najd, which word signifies a rising country, lies between those of Yamama, Yaman, and Hijaz, and is bounded on the east by Irak 4.

The province of Yamama, also called Arud from its oblique situation, in respect of Yaman, is surrounded by the provinces of Najd, Tahama, Bahrain, Oman, Shihr, Hadramaut, and Saba. The chief city is Yamama, which gives name to the province: it was anciently called Jaw, and is particularly famous for being the residence of Muhammad's competitor, the false prophet Musailama 5.

The Arabians, the inhabitants of this spacious country,

1Though the notion of Muhammad's being buried at Makkah has been so long exploded, yet several modern writers, whether through ignorance or negligence I will not determine, have fallen into it. I shall here take notice only of two; one Dr. Smith, who having lived some time in Turkey, seems to be inexcusable: that gentleman in his Epistles De Moribus ac Instutis Turcarum, no less than thrice mentions the Muhammadans visiting the tomb of their prophet at Makkah,and once his being born at Madina - the reverse of which is true (see Epist 1, p.22, Epist. 2, pp.63, 64). The other is the publisher of the last edition of Sir J. Mandeville's Travels, who on his author's saying very truly (p.50) that the said tomb was at Methone, i.e., Madina, undertakes to correct the name of the town, which is something corrupted, by putting at the bottom of the page, Makkah. The Abbot de Vertot, in his History of the Order of Malta (vol. i. p. 410, ed. 8vo), seems also to have confounded these two cities together, though he had before mentioned Muhammad's sepulchre at Madina. However, he is certainly mistaken, when he says that one point of the religion, both of the Christians and Muhammadans, was to visit, at least once in their lives, the tomb of the author of their respective faith. Whatever may be the opinion of some Christians, I am well assured the Muhammadans think themselves under no manner of obligation in that respect.

2 Gol. ad Afragan, 97; Abulfeda, Descr. Arab., p.40.

3 Gol., ubi supra 95.

4 Ibid., 94.

5 Ibid., 95.


Two classes of Arabians.

which they have possessed from the most remote antiquity, are distinguished by their own writers into two classes, viz., the old lost Arabians, and the present.

The former were very numerous, and divided into several tribes, which are now all destroyed, or else lost and swallowed up among the other tribes, nor are any certain memoirs or records extant concerning them;1 though the memory of some very remarkable events and the catastrophe of some tribes have been preserved by tradition, and since confirmed by the authority of the Quran.

The ancient Arabians.

The most famous tribes amongst these ancient Arabians were Ad, Thamud, Tasm, Jadis, the former Jorham, and Amalek.

The Adites.

The tribe of Ad were descended from Ad, the son of Aws,2 the son of Aram,3 the son of Sem, the son of Noah,* who, after the confusion of tongues, settled in al Ahqaf, or the winding sands in the province of Hadramaut, where his posterity greatly multiplied. Their first king was Shadad the son of Ad, of whom the Eastern writers deliver many fabulous things, particularly that he finished the magnificent city his father had begun, wherein he built a fine palace, adorned with delicious gardens, to embellish which he spared neither cost nor labour, proposing thereby to create in his subjects a superstitious veneration of him-self as a god.4

The garden of Iram.

This garden or paradise was called the garden of Iram, and is mentioned in the Quran,5 and often alluded to by the Oriental writers. The city, they tell us, is still standing in the deserts of Aden, being preserved

* This genealogy is given on the authority of Muslim tradition, or rather of Muslim adaptation of Jewish tradition to gratify Arab pride. As to its utter worthlessness, see note on p.24. E. M. W.

1 Albufarag, p. 159.

2 Or Uz., Gen. x. 22,23.

3 Vide Quran, c. 89, v.6. Some make Ad the son of Amalek, the son of Ham; but the other is the received opinion. See D'Herbel.,51.

4 Vide Eund., 498.

5 Cap. 89.


by Providence as a monument of divine justice, though it be invisible, unless very rarely, when GOD permits it to be seen, a favour one Colabah pretended to have received in the reign of the Khahlifa Mua'wiyah, who sending for him to know the truth of the matter, Colabah related his whole adventure that as he was seeking a camel he had lost, he found himself on a sudden at the gates of this city and entering it, saw not one inhabitant, at which, being terri­fied, he stayed no longer than to take with him some fine stones which he showed the Khalifah.1 *

Destruction of the Adites.

The descendants of Ad in process of time falling from the worship of the true GOD into idolatry, GOD sent the prophet Hu'd (who is generally agreed to be Heber 2**) to preach to and reclaim them. But they refusing to acknow­ledge his mission, or to obey him, GOD sent a hot and suffocating wind, which blew seven nights and eight days together, and entering at their nostrils passed through their bodies,3 and destroyed them all, a very few only excepted, who had believed in Hu'd and retired with him to another place4. That prophet afterwards returned into Hadramaut, and was buried near Hasiq, where there is a small town now standing called Qabr Hu'd or the sepul­chre of Hud. Before the Adites were thus severely punished, GOD, to humble them and incline them to hearken to the preaching of his prophet, afflicted them with a drought for four years, so that all their cattle

* For a full account of his adventure, see Lane's translation of the Thousand and One Nights.

** E. M. W. I can find no authority for this "general belief," excepting that of Muslim conjecture. The guesses of D'Herbelot and Bochart seem to be inspired by Muslim tradition, which has been shown to be for the most part, so far as genealogy is concerned, a forgery. Muir suggests that Hud may have been a Jewish emissary or Christian evangelist. Life of Mohamet, Introd., p. 139. E.M.W.

1 D'Herbel., 51.

2 The Jews acknowledge Heber to have been a great prophet. Seder Olam., p.2.

3 Al Baidhawi.

4 Poc. Spec., p.35, &C


The latter Adites.

perished, and themselves were very near it; upon which they sent Luqman (different from one of the same name who lived in David's time) with sixty others to Makkah to beg rain, which they not obtaining, Luqman with some of his company stayed at Makkah, and thereby escaped destruction, giving rise to a tribe called the latter Ad, who were afterward changed into monkeys1.

Some commentators on the Quran2 tell us these old Adites were of prodigious stature, the largest being 100 cubits high, and the least 60; which extraordinary size they pretend to prove by the testimony of the Quran.3

The tribe of Thamud

The tribe of Thamud were the posterity of Thamud the son of Jathiar 4 the son of Aram, who falling, into idolatry, the prophet Salih was sent to bring them back to the worship of the true GOD. This prophet lived between the time of Hud and of Abraham, and therefore cannot be the same with the patriarch Salih, as M. d'Herbelot imagines5. The learned Bochart with more probability takes him to be Phaleg6. A small number of the people of Thamud hearkened to the remonstrances of Salih, but the rest requiring, as a proof of his mission, that he should cause a she camel big with young to come out of a rock in their presence, he accordingly obtained it of GOD, and the camel was immediately delivered of a young one ready weaned; but they, instead of believing, cut the hamstrings of the camel and killed her; at which act of impiety GOD, being

The destruction of the Thamudites

highly displeased, three days after struck them dead in their houses by an earthquake and a terrible noise from heaven, which, some7 say, was the voice of Gabriel the archangel crying aloud, "Die, all of you." Salih, with those who were reformed by him, were saved from this destruction; the prophet going into Palestine, and from thence to Makkah,8 where he ended his days.

1 Poc. Spec., p.36.

2 Jalaluddin et Zamakhshari.

3 Quran, c. 7, v.70.

4 Or Gether, vide Gen. x. 23.

5 D'Herbel., Bibi. Orient., 740.

6 Bochart, Georg. Sac.

7 See D'Herbel, 366.

8 Ibn Shohnah.


This tribe first dwelt in Yaman,1 but being expelled thence by Himyar the son of Saba, they settled in the territory of Hajr in the province of Hijaz, where their habitations cut out of the rocks, mentioned in the Quran,2

Rock-cut houses of the Thamudites

are still to be seen, and also the crack of the rock whence the camel issued, which, as an eyewitness the 3 hath declared, is sixty cubits wide. These houses of the Thamudites being of the ordinary proportion, are used as an argument to convince those of a mistake who make this people to have been of a gigantic stature 4.

The tragical destructions of these two potent tribes are often insisted on in the Quran as instances of GOD'S judgement on obstinate unbelievers.

The tribe of Tasm.

The tribe of Tasm were the posterity of Lu'd the son of Sem, and Jadis of the descendants of Jathar 5. These two tribes dwelt promiscuously together under the government of Tasm till a certain tyrant made a law that no maid of the tribe of Jadis should marry unless first deflowered by him;6 which the Jadisians not enduring, formed a conspiracy, and inviting the king and chiefs of Tasm to an entertainment, privately hid their swords in the sand, and in the midst of their mirth fell on them and slew them all, and extirpated the greatest part of that tribe; however, the few who escaped obtaining aid of the king of Yaman, then (as is said) Dhu Habshan Ibn Aqran,7 assaulted the Jadis and utterly destroyed them; there being scarce 'any mention made from that time of either of these tribes 8.

The Jorhamites.

The former tribe of Jorham (whose ancestor some pretend was one of the eight persons saved in the ark with Noah, according to a Muhammadan tradition 9) was con-

1 Poc. Spec., p.57.

2 Quran, c. 15, v.82.

3 Abu Musa al Ashari.

4 Vide Poc. Spec., p.37.

5 Abulfeda.

6 A like custom is said to have been in some manors in England, and also in Scotland, where it was called " culliage," or " cullage," having been established by K. Ewen, and abolished by Malcolm III. See Bayle's Dict. Art. Sixte IV. Rem. H.

7 Poc. Spec., p.60.

8 Ibid., p.37, &C

9 Ibid., p.38.


temporary with Ad, and utterly perished1. The tribe of Amalek were descended from Amalek the son of Eliphaz the son of Esau2, though some of the Oriental authors say Amalek was the son of Ham the son of Noah3, and others the son of Azd the son of Sem4. The posterity of this person rendered themselves very powerful 5, and before the

The Amalekites conquer Lower Egypt

time of Joseph conquered the Lower Egypt under their king Walid, the first who took the name of Pharaoh, as Egypt. the Eastern writers tell us 6; seeming by these Amalekites to mean the same people which the Egyptian histories call Phoenician shepherds 7. But after they had possessed the throne of Egypt for some descents, they were expelled by the natives) and at length totally destroyed by the Israelites 8.

Origin of the present Arabians

The present Arabians, according to their own historians, are sprung from two stocks, Qahtan,* the same with Joctan the son of Eber 9, and Adnan, descended in a direct line from Ismail the son of Abraham and Hagar; the posterity of the former they call al Arab al Ariba 10, i.e., the genuine or pure Arabs, and those of the latter al Arab al Mustariba, i.e., naturalised or insititious Arabs, though

* Muir, in his Life of Mahomet (Introd., p. cl.), proves conclusively that this identification of the Arab Qahtan with the Joctan of Scripture is an extravagant fiction, and shows that the age of Qahtan must be fixed at a period somewhere between 800o and 500 B.C. He says: "The identification (alluded to above) is one of those extravagant fictions which the followers of Islam, in their zeal to accommodate Arab legend to Jewish scripture, has made in defiance of the most violent improbability, and the grossest anachronisms." E.M.W.

1 Ibn Shohnah.

2 Gen. xxxvi. 12.

3 Vide D'Herbelot, p.110.

4 Ibn Shohnah.

5 Vide Numb. xxiv. 20.

6 Mirát Caïnát.

7 Vide Joseph. cont. Apion.; l. i.

8 Vide Exod. xvii. 18, &c.; I Sam. xv. 2, &c.; ibid., xxvii. 8,9; I Chron. iv. 43.

9 R. Saad. in vers. Arab. Pentat.Gen. x. 25. Some writers make Qahtan a descendant of Ismail, but against the current of Oriental historians. See Poc. Spec., p.39.

10 An expression something like that of St. Paul, who calls himself "an Hebrew of the Hebrews" (Phil. iii 5).


some reckon the ancient lost tribes to have been the only pure Arabians, and therefore call the posterity of Qahtan also Mutariba, which word likewise signifies insititious Arabs though in a nearer degree than Mustariba, the descendants of Ismail being the more distant graff.

Their posterity have no claim to be pure Arabs.

The posterity of Ismail have no claim to be admitted as pure Arabs, their ancestor being by origin and language an Hebrew; but having made an alliance with the Jorhamites, by marrying a daughter of Mudad, and accustomed himself to their manner of living and language, his descendants became blended with them into one nation. The uncertainty of the descents between Ismail and Adnan is the reason why they seldom trace their genealogies higher than the latter, whom they acknowledge as father of their tribes, the descents from him downwards being pretty certain and uncontroverted.1 *

The genealogy of these tribes being of great use to illustrate the Arabian history, I have taken the pains to

* On this subject we give the following extract from Muir's Life of Mahomet, vol. i. p. cvii. :-

"The first peopling of Arabia is a subject on which we may in vain look for any light from the traditions of Arabia itself. Tradition, indeed, gives us the genealogies of the Himyar kings and the links of the great Coreishite line of descent. But the latter do not ascend much beyond the Christian era, and the former only five or six centuries further; the earlier names of the Himyar dynasty were probably derived from bare inscriptions; and of the Coreish we have hardly anything but a naked ancestral tree, till within two or three centuries of Mahomet.

Beyond these periods Mahometan tradition is entirely worthless. It is not original, but taken at second hand from the Jews, Mahomet having claimed to be of the seed of Ishmael. The Jewish Rabbins who were gained over to his cause endeavoured to confirm the claim from the genealogies of the Old Testament and of Rabbinical traditions." Muir's Introduction to his Life of Mahomet is the standard work, in the English language, on all that pertains to early Arabian history.


1 Poc, Spec., p.40.


form a genealogical table from their most approved authors, to which I refer the curious.

The Cushites

Besides these tribes of Arabs mentioned by their own authors, who were all descended from the race of Sem, others of them were the posterity of Ham by his son Cush, which name is in Scripture constantly given to the Arabs and their country, though our version renders it Ethiopia; but, strictly speaking, the Cushites did not inhabit Arabia properly so called, but the banks of the Euphrates and the Persian Gulf, whither they came from Chuzestan or Susiana, the original settlement of their father1. They might probably mix themselves in process of time with the Arabs of the other race, but the Eastern writers take little or no notice of them.

The Arabians were for some centuries under the government of the descendants of Qahtan; Yarab, one of his sons, founding the kingdom of Yaman, and Jorham, another of them, that of Hijaz.

The Himyar princes of Yaman.

The province of Yaman, or the better part of it, particularly the provinces of Saba and Hadramaut, was governed by princes of the tribe of Himyar, though at length the kingdom was translated to the descendants of Qahlan, his brother, who yet retained the title of King of Himyar, and had all of them the general title of Tubba, which signifies successor, and was affected to this race of princes as that of Cæsar was to the Roman emperors, and Khalifah to the successors of Muhammad. There were several lesser princes who reigned in other parts of Yaman, and were mostly, if not altogether, subject to the king of Himyar, whom they called the great king, but of these history has recorded nothing remarkable or that may be upon2.

The inundation of Aram.

The first great calamity that befell the tribes settled in Yaman was the inundation of Aram, which happened soon after the time of Alexander the Great, and is famous in

1 Vide Hyde, Hist. Rel. vet. Pers., p.37, &C

2 Poc. Spec., pp.65, 66.


the Arabian history.* No less than eight tribes were forced to abandon their dwellings upon this occasion, some of which gave rise to the two kingdoms of Ghassan and Hira. And this was probably the time of the migration of those tribes or colonies which were led into Mesopotamia by three chiefs, Baqr, Mudar, and Rabia, from whom the three provinces of that country are still named Diyar Baqr, Diyar Mudar, and Diyar Rabfa1. Abd-as-Shams, surnamed Saba, having built the city from him called Saba, and afterwards Marib, made a vast mound, or dam2, to serve as a basin or reservoir to receive the water which came down from the mountains, not only for the use of the inhabitants, and watering their lands, but also to keep the country they had subjected in greater awe by being masters of the water. This building stood like a mountain above their city, and was by them esteemed so strong that they were in no apprehension of its ever failing. The water rose to the height of almost twenty fathoms, and was kept in on every side by a work so solid, that many of the inhabitants had their houses built upon it. Every family had a certain portion of this water, distributed by aqueducts. But at length GOD, being highly displeased at their great pride and insolence, and resolving to humble and disperse them,** sent a mighty flood, which broke down the mound by night while the inhabitants were asleep, and carried away the whole city, with the neighbouring towns and people3.

* This event did not occur till about the beginning of the second century of the Christian era. See Muir's Life of Mahomet, vol. i., Introd., p. clvii., and authorities cited there. E.M.W.

** This immigration was probably due chiefly to "the drying up of the Yemen commerce, and stoppage of the carrying trade," owing to the Romans having opened up commercial intercourse between India and Egypt by way of the Red Sea. Muir's Introd., Life of Mahomet, p. cxxxvii. E. M. W.

1 Vide Gol. ad Alfrag., p.232.

2 Poc. Spec., p.57.

3 Geogr. Nubiens, p.52.


Ethiopian conquest of Yaman

The tribes which remained in Yaman after this terrible devastation still continued under the obedience of the former princes, till about seventy years before Muhamad, when the king of Ethiopia sent over forces to assist the Christians of Yaman against the cruel persecution of their king, Dhu Nuwa's, a bigoted Jew, whom they drove to that extremity that he forced his horse into the sea, and so lost his life and crown 1, after which the country was governed by four Ethiopian princes successively, till Salif, the son of Dhu Yazan, of the tribe of Himyar, obtaining succours from Khusru' Anushirwan, king of Persia, which had been denied him by the emperor Heraclius, recovered the throne and drove out the Ethiopians, but was himself slain by some of them

Persian supremacy established.

who were left behind. The Persians appointed the succeeding princes till Yaman fell into the hands of Muhammad, to whom Bazan, or rather Badhan, the last of them, submitted, and embraced this new religion2.

This kingdom of the Himyarites is said to have lasted 2020 years3, or, as others say, above 30004, the length of the reign of each prince being very uncertain.

It has been already observed that two kingdoms were founded by those who left their country on occasion of the inundation of Aram: they were both out of the proper limits of Arabia. One of them was the kingdom of Ghassan.

The kingdom of Ghassan founded.

The founders of this kingdom were of the tribe of Azd, who, settling in Syria Damascena near a water called Ghassan, thence took their name, and drove out the Dajaainian Arabs of the tribe of Salih, who before possessed the country5; where they maintained their kingdom 400 years, as others say 600, or, as Abulfeda more exactly computes, 616. Five of these princes were named HaLrith, which the Greeks write Aretas: and one

1 See Prideaux's Life of Mahomet, p. 61.

2 Poc. Spec., pp.63, 64.

3 Abulfeda.

4 Al Jannabi and Ahmed Ibn Yusef.

5 Poc. Spec., p.76.


of them it was whose governor ordered the gates of Damascus to be watched to take St Paul1. This tribe were Christians,* their last king being Jabalah the son of al Ayham, who, on the Arabs' successes in Syria professed Muhammadanism under the Khalifah Omar; but receiving a disgust from him, returned to his former faith, and retired to Constantinople2.

The kingdom of Hira.

The other kingdom was that of Hira, which was founded by Malik, of the descendants of Qahlan3 in Chaldea or Irak; but after three descents the throne came by marriage to the Lakhmians, called also the Mundars (the general name of those princes), who preserved their dominion, not-withstanding some small interruption by the Persians, till the Khalifat of Abu Baqr, when al Mundar al Maghrur, the last of them, lost his life and crown by the arms of Khalid Ibn al Walid. This kingdom lasted 622 years eight months4. Its princes were under the protection of the kings of Persia, whose lieutenants they were over the Arabs of Irak, as the kings of Ghassan were for the Roman emperors over those of Syria5.

Jorhamites of the Hijaz.

Jorham the son of Qahtan reigned in Hijaz, where his posterity kept the throne till the time of Ismail; but on his marrying the daughter of Mudad, by whom he had twelve sons, Qidar, one of them, had the crown resigned to him by his uncles the Jorhamites 6, though others say the descendants of Ismail expelled that tribe, who retiring

They are expelled and finally destroyed.

to Johainah, were, after various fortune, at last all destroyed by an inundation 7.

* This was true only of the last kings of the tribe, the conversion having probably taken place through political influence about the middle of the fourth century of our era. Muir's Introd. Life of Mahomet, p. clxxxv. E.M.W.

1 Cor. Xi. 32; Acts ix. 24.

2 Vide Ockley's History of the Saracens, vol. i p. 174.

3 Poc. Spec., p.66.

4 Ibid., p. 74.

5 Ibid. and Procop. in Pers. apud Photium. P. 71, &c.

6 Poc. Spec., p. 45.

7 Ibid. p. 79.


Of the kings of Himyar, Hira, Ghassan, and Jorham, Dr. Pocock has given us catalogues tolerably exact, to which I refer the curious1.

The Phylarchic government of Hijaz

After the expulsion of the Jorhamites, the government of Hijaz seems not to have continued for many centuries in the hands of one prince, but to have been divided among the heads of tribes, almost in the same manner as the Arabs of the desert are governed at this day. At Makkah an aristocracy prevailed, where the chief management of affairs till the time of Muhammad was in the tribe of Quraish, especially after they had gotten the custody of the Kaabah from the tribe of Khuzáah 2.

Besides the kingdoms which have been taken notice of, there were some other tribes which in latter times had princes of their own, and formed states of lesser note, particularly the tribe of Kinda 3; but as I am not writing a just history of the Arabs, and an account of them would be of no great use to my present purpose, I shall waive any further mention of them.

The government of Arabia after the time of Muhammad.

After the time of Muhammad, Arabia was for about three centuries under the Khalifahs his successors. But in the year 325 of the Hijra, great part of that country was in the bands of the Karmatians 4, a new sect who had committed great outrages and disorders even in Makkah, and to whom the Khalifahs were obliged to pay tribute, that the pilgrimage thither might be performed: of this sect I may have occasion to speak in another place. Afterwards Yaman was governed by the house of Thabátiba, descended from Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad, whose sovereignty in Arabia some place so high as the time of Charlemagne. However, it was the posterity of Ali, or pretenders to be such, who reigned in Yaman and Egypt so early as the tenth century. The present reigning family in Yaman is probably that of Ayúb, a branch of which reigned there in

1 Poc. Spec., p. S5 seq.

2 Vide ibid., p.41, and Prideaux's Life of Mahomet, p.2.

3 Vide Poc. Spec., p. 79, &c

4 Vide Elmacin. in Vita al Rádi.


the thirteenth century, and took the title of Khalifah and Imam which they still retain1.* They are not possessed of the whole province of Yaman2, there being several other independent kingdoms there, particularly that of Fartakh. The crown of Yaman descends not regularly from father to son, but the prince of the blood royal who is most in favour with the great ones, or has the strongest interest, generally succeeds3.

The governors of Makkah and Madina independent.

The governors of Makkah and Madina, who have always been of the race of Muhammad, also threw off their subjection to the Khalifahs, since which time four principal families, all descended from Hassan the son of Ali, have reigned there under the title of Sharif, which signifies noble, as they reckon themselves to be on account of their descent. These are Banu Qadir, Banu Musa Thani, Banu Hasham, and Banu Kitada4; which last family now is, or lately was, in the throne of Makkah, where they have reigned above 500 years.** The reigning family at Madina

* There is no one family now ruling over the whole of Yaman. At present the Turks have at least nominal dominion in the northern part to about 17 degrees 30' north latitude. In Southern Yaman there is no paramount sovereign, the Zaidi family having been deposed from the throne of Sanaa some years ago. The Sultan of Gaara, in Lower Jafia, who is recognised as a sort of hierarch in those regions, exercises considerable authority under the title of Afifi . He is said to pronounce judgment by fire ordeals. His principal rival is the Sultan of Maar, in the district of Abian, but he has thus far been able to maintain his position as the most respected judge in Southern Yaman. In addition to these there is the so-called six-finger dynasty (said to have twelve fingers and twelve toes) of the Osmani rulers in the region near Aden, who are subsidised by the English. These are also rivals of the Afifi. E.M.W.

** The present Grand Sharif of Makkah is Abdal Muttalib, who was deposed in 1858 by the Sultan of Turkey, and kept at Constantinople as a state prisoner for more than twenty years. His successor in office was assassinated at Jidda in 1880 by a fanatic, because, as

1 Voyage de l'Arab. Heur., p. 255.

2 Ibid., pp. 153, 273.

3 Ibid., p. 254.

4 Ibid., p.143.


are the Banu Hasham, who also reigned at Makkah before those of Kitada1.

The rulers of Yaman independent
The rulers of The kings of Yaman, as well as the princes of Makkah and Madfna, are absolutely independent2 and not at all subject to the Turk1 as some late authors have imagined3.* These princes often making cruel wars among themselves, gave an opportunity to Selim I. and his son Sulaiman, to make themselves masters of the coasts of Arabia on the Red Sea, and of part of Yaman, by means of a fleet built at Sues: but their successors have not been able to maintain their conquests; for, except the port of Jidda, where

is believed by some, he refused to recognise the Sultan of Turkey as the Khalifah (caliph or viceregent of Muhammad). Strange to say, the Sultan reinstated the exiled Grand Sharif. He is said to be a mortal enemy of the English. Yet he does not appear to be popular in Arabia, as an unsuccessful attempt was made on his life soon after his arrival at Makkah. E.M.W.

* The defeat of the Wahabis by Ibrahim Pasha in 1818 brought a considerable portion of Arabia, comprising about two hundred thousand square miles, under Turkish suzerainty. The rule of the Turk, however, is for the most part merely nominal, and this becomes more so each year as the power of the Ottoman empire decreases. So far, however, as recognised, it extends over almost the whole of Hijaz, with Makkah, Madina, and Jidda, under semi-independent rulers, the northern part of Yaman, and about half of Ahra (with Palgrave's Hofhoof) on the east coast. Madina is subject to the Grand Sharif of Makkah.

A German traveller (Von Moltzau) tells us that Arabia, especially South-Western Arabia, is honeycombed by numerous sects, notably by that of the "Hidden Imam." The Wahabis too are stirring again, and the powerful chief of Northern Hijaz, with his hordes of Bedouins, is quite ready to throw off the Ottoman yoke, light as it is. It therefore appears that while the Turk possesses considerably more authority in Arabia than he formerly did, according to our author, there is every reason to believe it to be for the most part nominal, and that even this tenure is likely to be of short duration. (I am indebted for most of the information in this note and the two preceding to the research of the Rev. P. M. Zenker, C.M.S., Agra.) E.M.W.

1 Voyage de l'Arab. Heur., p.145.

2 Ibid., pp.143, 148.

3 Vide D'HerbeL, Bibi. Orient., p.477.


they have a Pasha whose authority is very small, they possess nothing considerable in Arabia1. *

Arabian liberty preserved in all ages

Thus have the Arabs preserved their liberty, of which few nations can produce so ancient monuments, with very little interruption, from the very Deluge; for though very great armies have been sent against them, all attempts to subdue them were unsuccessful. The Assyrian or Median empires never got footing among them2. The Persian monarchs, though they were their friends, and so far respected by them as to have an annual present of frankincense3, yet could never make them tributary4; and were so far from being their masters, that Cambyses, on his expedition against Egypt, was obliged to ask their leave to pass through their territories5; and when Alexander had subdued that mighty empire, yet the Arabians had so little apprehension of him, that they alone, of all the neighbouring nations sent no ambassadors to him, either first or last; which, with a desire of possessing so rich a country, made him form a design against it, and had he not died before he could put it in execution6, this people might possibly have convinced him that he was not invincible: and I do not find that any of his successors, either Asia or Egypt, ever made any attempt against them7. The Romans never conquered any part of Arabia properly so called; the most they did was to make some tribes in Syria tributary to them, as Pompey did one commanded by Sampsiceramus or Shams'alkeram, who reigned at Hems or Emesa8; but none of the Romans, or any other nations that we know of, ever penetrated so far into Arabia 1as Ælius Gallus under Augustus Cæsar9; yet he was so far from subduing it, as some authors pretend10, that he

* See note above.

1 Voy. de 1'Arab. Heur., p. 148.

2 Diodor. Sic., 1.2, p. 131.

3 Herodot., 1.3, C. 97.

4 Idem lb. c. 91. Diodor., ubi sup.

5 Herodot., 1.3, C. 8 and 98.

6 Strabo, 1. 16, pp.1076, 1132.

7 Vide Diodor. Sic., ubi supra.

8 Strabo, I. 16, p.1092.

9 Dion Cassius, I. 53, p. m. 516.

10 Huet, Hist. du Commerce et de la Navigation des Anciens, C. 50.


was soon obliged to return without effecting anything considerable, having lost the best part of his army by sickness and other accidents 1. This ill success probably discouraged the Romans from attacking them any more; for Trajan, notwithstanding the flatteries of the historians and orators of his time, and the medals struck by him, did not subdue the Arabs; the province of Arabia, which it is said he added to the Roman empire, scarce reaching farther than Arabia Petræa, or the very skirts of the country. And we are told by one author 2, that this prince, marching against the Agarens who had revolted, met with such a reception that he was obliged to return without doing anything.

The religion of the Arabs before Muhamaad

The religion of the Arabs before Muhammad, which they call the state of ignorance, in opposition to the knowledge of GOD'S true worship revealed to them by their prophet, was chiefly gross idolatry; the Sabian religion having almost overrun the whole nation, though there were also great numbers of Christians, Jews, and Magians among them.

The Sabian religion described.

The Sabian I shall not here transcribe what Dr. Prideaux 3 has written religion described. of the original of the Sabian religion but instead thereof insert a brief account of the tenets and worship of that sect. They do not only believe one GOD, but produce many strong arguments for his unity, though they also pay an adoration to the stars, or the angels and intelligences which they suppose reside in them, and govern the world under the Supreme Deity. They endeavour to perfect themselves in the four intellectual virtues, and believe the souls of wicked men will be punished for nine thousand ages, but will afterwards be received to mercy. They are obliged to pray three times 4 a day; the first, half an hour or less before sunrise, ordering it so that they may, just as the sun rises, finish eight adorations, each containing three prostrations 5: the second prayer they

1 See the whole expedition described at large by Strabo, I 16, p. 1126, &C.

2 Xiphilln., epit.

3 Connect. of the Hist. of the Old and New Test, p. I, bk. 3.

4 Some say seven. See D'Herbelot, p. 726, and Hyde, De Rel. Vet. Pers., p. 128.

5 Others say they use no incurvations or prostrations at all; vide Hyde, ibid.


end at noon, when the sun begins to decline, in saying which they perform five such adorations as the former: and the same they do the third time, ending just as the sun sets. They fast three times a year, the first time thirty days, the next nine days, and the last seven. They offer many sacrifices, but eat no part of them, burning them all. They abstain from beans, garlic, and some other pulse and vegetables1. As to the Sabian Qibla, or, part to which they turn their faces in praying, authors greatly differ; one will have it to be the north2, another the south, a third Makkah, and a fourth the star to which they pay their devotions3: and perhaps there may be some variety in their practice in this respect They go on pilgrimage to a place near the city of Harran in Mesopotamia, where great numbers of them dwell, and they have also a great respect for the temple of Makkah, and the pyramids of Egypt4; fancying these last to be the sepulchres of Seth, and of Enoch and Sabi his two sons, whom they look on as the first propagators of their religion; at these structures they sacrifice a cock and a black calf and offer up incense6. Besides the Book of Psalms, the only true Scripture they read, they have other books which they esteem equally sacred, particularly one in the Chaldean tongue which they call the Book of Seth, and which is full of moral discourses. This sect say they took the name of Sabian from the above-mentioned Sabi, though it seems rather to be derived from , Saba6, or the host of heaven, which they worship7. Travellers commonly call them Christians of St. John the Baptist, whose disciples also they pretend to be, using a kind of baptism, which is the greatest mark they bear of Christianity. This is one of the religions, the practice of which Muhammad tolerated (on

1 Abulfarag, Hist. Dynast., p. 281 &C.

2 Idem ibid.

3 Hyde, ubi supra, p.124, &C

4 D'Herbelot, ubi supra.

5 See Greaves' Pyramidog., pp. 6,7.

6 Vide Poc. Spec., p.138.

7 Thabit Ibn Kurrah, a famous astronomer, and himself a Sabian, wrote a treatise in Syriac concerning the doctrines, rites, and ceremonies of this sect; from which, if it could be recovered, we might expect much better information than any taken from the Arabian writers; vide Abulfarag, ubi supra.


paying tribute), and the professors of it are often included in that expression of the Quran, "those to whom the Scriptures have been given," or literally, the people of the book.*

Arab idolatry and star-worship.

The idolatry of the Arabs then, as Sabians, chiefly consisted in worshipping the fixed stars and planets, and the angels and their images, which they honoured as inferior deities, and whose intercession they begged, as their mediators with GOD. For the Arabs acknowledged one supreme GOD, the Creator and LORD of the universe, whom they called Allah Taala, the most high GOD; and their other deities, who were subordinate to him, they called simply al Ilahat, i.e., the goddesses; which words the Grecians not understanding, and it being their constant custom to resolve the religion of every other nation into their own and find out gods of theirs to match the others', they pretend that the Arabs worshipped only two deities, Orotalt and Alilat, as those names are corruptly written, whom they will have to be the same with Bacchus and Urania; pitching on the former as one of the greatest of their own gods, and educated in Arabia, and on the other because of the veneration shown by the Arabs to the stars1.

They acknowledged the one supreme God.

That they acknowledged one supreme GOD, appears, to omit other proof, from their usual form of addressing themselves to him, which was this, "I dedicate myself to thy service, O GOD! Thou hast no companion, except thy companion of whom thou art absolute master, and of whatever is his."2 So that they supposed the idols not to be sui juris, though they offered sacrifices and other offerings to them, as well as to GOD, who was also often put off with the least portion, as Muhammad upbraids them. Thus when they planted fruit-trees or sowed a field, they divided it by a line into two parts, setting one apart for

* For a better account of these Sabians, see note on chap. ii. V. 61. E.M.W.

1 Vide Herodot., 1.3, c. 8; Arrian, pp. 161, 162; and Strabo, I. 16.

2 Al Shahristani.


their idols, and the other for GOD; if any of the fruits happened to fall from the idol's part into GOD'S, they made restitution; but if from GOD'S part into the idol's, they made no restitution. So when they watered the idol's grounds, if the water broke over the channels made for that purpose, and ran on GOD'S part, they dammed it up again; but if the contrary, they let it run on, saying, they wanted what was GOD's, but he wanted nothing1. In the same manner, if the offering designed for GOD happened to be better than that designed for the idol, they made an exchange, but not otherwise2.

Muhammad restored primitive monotheism.

It was from this gross idolatry, or the worship of inferior Muhammad deities, or companions of GOD, as the Arabs continue to call them, that Muhammad reclaimed his countrymen establishing the sole worship of the true GOD among them; so that how much soever the Muhammadans are to blame in other points, they are far from being idolaters,* as some ignorant writers have pretended.

Origin of star-worship.

The worship of the stars the Arabs might easily be led into, from their observing the changes of weather to happen at the rising and setting of certain of them3 which after a long course of experience induced them to ascribe a divine power to those stars, and to think themselves in-debted to them for their rains, a very great benefit and refreshment to their parched country: this superstition the Quran particularly takes notice of4.

* So far as the Quran and the religion of Muhammad are concerned, a charge of idolatry would be a sign of ignorance. But when we take into account the reverence of Muslims for the Black Stone at Makkah, their worship of Walis or saints, and notably of Hasan and Husain, the charge is just. However, when this inconsistency of Muslims is made to appear as an argument against Islam, it is as absurd as the attempt of Muslims to establish the charge of idolatry against Christians by pointing to Roman Catholic image-worship. E.M.W.

1 Nodhm al dorr.

2 Al Baidhawi.

3 Vide post.

4 Vide Poc. Spec., p. 163.


The temple of Bait Ghumdan at Sanaa.

The ancient Arabians and Indians, between which two at nations was a great conformity of religions, had seven celebrated temples, dedicated to the seven planets; one of which in particular, called Bait Ghumdan, was built in Sanaa, the metropolis of Yaman, by Dahaq, to the honour of al Zuharah or the planet Venus, and was demolished by the Khalifah Othman;1 by whose murder was fulfilled the prophetical inscription set, as is reported, over this temple, viz., " Ghumdan, he who destroyeth thee shall be slain2." The temple of Makkah is also said to have been consecrated to Zuhal, or Saturn1.

Different stars worshiped by different tribes

Though these deities were generally reverenced by the whole nation, yet each tribe chose some one as the more peculiar object of their worship.

Thus as to the stars and planets, the tribe of Himyar chiefly worshipped the sun Misam,4 al Dabaran, or the Bull's-eye; Lakhm and Jodam, al Mushtari, or Jupiter; Tay, Suhail, or Canopus; Qais, Sums, or the Dog-star and Asad, Atarid, or Mercury5. Among the worshippers of Sirius, one Abu Qabsha was very famous; some will have him to be the same with Wahab, Muhammad's grand-father by the mother, but others say he was of the tribe of Khuzaah. This man used his utmost endeavours to persuade the Quraish to leave their images and worship this star; for which reason Muhammad, who endeavoured also to make them leave their images, was by them nick-named the son of Abu Qabsha6. The worship of this star is particularly hinted at in the Quran7.

Angels or gods worshiped as intercessors

Of the angels or intelligences which they worshiped, the Quran8 makes mention only of three, which were worshipped under female names1; al bat, al Uzza, and Minah. These were by them called goddesses, and the daughters

1 Shahristani.

2 Al Jannabi.

3 Shahristani.

4 This name seems to be corrupted, there being no such among the Arab tribes. Poc. Spec., p.130.

5 Abulfarag, p. 160.

6 Poc. Spec., p.132.

7 Cap. 53, V.1.

8 Ibid., vs. 19-28.

9 Ibid.


of GOD; an appellation they gave not only to the angels, but also to their images, which they either believed to be inspired with life by GOD, or else to become the tabernacles of the angels, and to be animated by them; and they gave them divine worship, because they imagined they interceded for them with GOD.

The idol at Lat.

Al Lat was the idol of the tribe of Thakif who dwelt at Tayif, and had a temple consecrated to her in a place called Nakhla. This idol al Mughairah destroyed by Muhammad's order, who sent him and Abu Sofian on that commission in the ninth year of the Hijra1. The inhabitants of Tayif, especially the women, bitterly lamented the loss of this their deity, which they were so fond of, that they begged of Muhammad, as a condition of peace, that it might not be destroyed for three years, and not obtaining that, asked only a month's respite; but he absolutely denied it2. There are several derivations of this word, which the curious may learn from Dr. Pocock3; it seems most probably to be derived from the same root with Allah, to which it may be a feminine, and will then signify the goddess.

The idol al Uzza.

Al Uzza, as some affirm, was the idol of the tribes of Quraish and Kinanah4, and part of the tribe of Salim5; others6 tell us it was a tree called the Egyptian thorn, or acacia, worshipped by the tribe of Ghatfan, first consecrated by one Dhalim, who built a chapel over it; called Boss, so contrived as to give a sound when any person entered. Khalid Ibu Walid being sent by Muhammad in the eighth year of the Hijra to destroy this idol, demolished the chapel, and cutting down this tree or image, burnt it: he also slew the priestess, who ran out with her hair dishevelled, and her hands on her head as a suppliant. Yet

1 Dr. Prideaux mentions this expedition, but names only Abu Sofian, and mistaking the name of the idol for an appellative, supposes he went only to disarm the Tayifians of their weapons and instruments of war. See his Life of Mahomet, p.98.

2 Abulfeda, Vit. Muham., p.127.

3 Poc. Spec., p.90.

4 Al Jauhari. apud eund., p.91.

5 Al Shah., ib.

6 Al Firauz., ib.


the author who relates this, in another place says, the chapel was pulled down, and Dhahm himself killed by one Zuhair, because he consecrated this chapel with design to draw the pilgrims thither from Makkah, and lessen the reputation of the Kaabah. The name of this deity is derived from the root azza, and signifies the most mighty.

The idol Mina

Minah was the object of worship of the tribes of Hudhail and Khuzaah1, who dwelt between Makkah and Madina, and, as some say2, of the tribes of Aws, Khazraj, and Thakif also. This idol was a large stone3, demolished by one Saad, in the eigth year of the Hijra, a year so fatal to the idols of Arabia. The name seem's derived from mana, to flow, from the flowing of the blood of the victims sacrificed to the deity; whence the valley of Mina4 near Makkah, had also its name, where the pilgrims at this day slay their sacrifices5.

Idols Wadd, Sawa, Yahuth, Yauq, and Nasr.

Before we proceed to the other idols, let us take notice of five more, which with the former three are all the Quran mentions by name, and they are Wadd, Sawa', Yaghuth, Yauq, and Nasr. These are said to have been antediluvian idols, which Noah preached against, and were afterwards taken by the Arabs for gods, having been men of great merit and piety in their time, whose statues they reverenced at first with a civil honour only, which in process of time became heightened to a divine worship6.

Wadd was supposed to be the heaven, and was wor­shipped under the form of a man by the tribe of Qalb in Daumat al Jandal7.

Sawa' was adored under the shape of a woman by the tribe of Hamadan, or, as others8 write, of Hudhail in Rohat. This idol lying under water for some time after the Deluge, was at length, it is said, discovered by the devil, and was worshipped by those of Hudhail, who instituted pilgrimages to it9.

1 Al Jauhari.

2 Al Shabristarn, Abulfeda, &c

3 Al Baidhawi, al Zamakhshari.

4 Poc. Spec., p.91, &C

5 Ibid.

6 Quran, c 71, v.22; Comment Persic.; vide Hyde, De Rel. Vet. Pers., p.133.

7 Al Jauhari, al Shahristani.

8 Idem, al Firauzabadi, and Sa­fluddin.

9 Al Firauzab.


Yaghuth was an idol in the shape of a lion, and was the deity of the tribe of Madhaj and others who dwelt in Yaman1. Its name seems to be derived from ghatha which signifies to help.

Yiuq was worshipped by the tribe of Murad, or, accord­ing to others, by that of Hamadan2, under the figure of a horse. It is said he was a man of great piety, and his death much regretted; whereupon the devil appeared to his friends in a human form, and undertaking to repre­sent him to the life, persuaded them, by way of comfort, to place his effigies in their temples, that they might have it in view when at their devotions. This was done, and seven others of extraordinary merit had the same honours shown them, till at length their posterity made idols of them in earnest3. The name Yauq probably comes from the verb aqa, to prevent or avert4.

Nasr was a deity adored by the tribe of Himyar, or at Dhul Khalaah in their territories, under the image of an eagle, which the name signifies.

There are, or were, two statues at Bamiyan, a city of Cabul in the Indies, fifty cubits high, which some writers suppose to be the same with Yaghuth and Yauq, or else with Minah and al Lat; and they also speak of a third standing near the others, but something less, in the shape of an old woman, called Nasram or Nasr. These statues were hollow within, for the secret giving of oracles5; but they seem to have been different from the Arabian idols. There was also an idol at Sumenat in the Indies, called Lat or al Lat,* whose statue was fifty fathoms high, of a

* Somnath is the name of the idol, and is applied to the god Mahadev. This idol may have been called Lat or al Lat by the Muslim plunderer, Mahmud, and his followers, but that it was ever so called by the Hindus is a mistake. E.M.W.

1 Shahristani.

2 Al Jauhari.

3 Al Firauzab.

4 Poc. Spec., p.94.

5 See Hyde, De Rel. Vet. Pers., p.132.


single stone, and placed in the midst of a temple supported by fifty-six pillars of massy gold: this idol Mahmud Ibn Sabaqtaghin, who conquered that part of India, broke to pieces with his own hands 1.

The worship of Hobal and other idols of the Kaabah.

Besides the idols we have mentioned, the Arabs also worshipped great numbers of others, which would take up too much time to have distinct accounts given of them; and not being named in the Quran, are not so much to our present purpose: for besides that every housekeeper had his household god or gods, which he last took leave of and first saluted at his going abroad and returning home 2 there were no less than 360 idols,3 equalling in number the days of their year, in and about the Kaabah of Makkah; the chief of whom was Hobal 4, brought from Belka in Syria into Arabia by Amru Ibn Luhai, pretending it would procure them rain when they wanted it.5 It was the statue of a man, made of agate, which having by some accident lost a hand, the Quraish repaired it with one of gold: he held in his hand seven arrows without heads or feathers, such as the Arabs use in divination 6. This idol is supposed to have been the same with the image of Abraham 7, found and destroyed by Muhammad in the Kaabah, on his entering it, in the eighth year of the Hijra, when he took Makkah 8, and surrounded with a great number of angels and prophets, as inferior deities; among whom, as some say, was Ismail, with divining arrows in his hand also 9.

The idols Asaf and Nailah of Safa and Marwa

Asaf and Nailah, the former the image of a man, the latter of a woman, were also two idols brought with Hobal from Syria, and placed the one on Mount Safa, and the other on Mount Marwa.* They tell us Asaf was the son

* Safa and Marwa "are two slightly elevated spots adjacent to the Temple of Mekkeh." - Lane's Kuran, p.33. E.M.W.

1 D'Herbelot, Bibl. Orient., p. 512.

2 Al Mustatraf.

3 Al Jannab.

4 Abulfed, Shahrist., &C.

5 Poc. Spec., p.95.

6 Safiu'ddin.

7 Poc. Spec., p.97.

8 Abulfeda.

9 Ibn al Ashir., al Jannab., &C


of Amru, and Naflah the daughter of Sahal, both of the tribe of Jorham, who committing whoredom together in the Kaabah, were by GOD converted into stone1, and after­wards worshipped by the Quraish, and so much reverenced by them, that though this superstition was condemned by Muhammad, yet he was forced to allow them to visit those mountains as monuments of divine justice2.

The dough-worship of the tribe of Hanifa.

I shall mention but one idol more of this nation, and that was a lump of dough worshipped by the tribe of Hanifa, who used it with more respect than the Papists do theirs, presuming not to eat it till they were compelled to it by famine3.

Origin of stone-worship.

Several of their idols, as Minah in particular, were no more than large rude stones, the worship of which the posterity of Ismail first introduced; for as they multiplied, and the territory of Makkah grew too strait for them, great numbers were obliged to seek new abodes; and on such migrations it was usual for them to take with them some of the stones of that reputed holy land, and set them up in the places where they fixed; and these stones they at first only compassed out of devotion, as they had accustomed to do the Kaabah. But this at last ended in rank idolatry, the Ismailites forgetting the religion left them by their father so far as to pay divine worship to any fine stone they met with4.

Arab belief in a future life.

Some of the pagan Arabs believed neither a creation Arab belief past, nor a resurrection to come, attributing the origin of things to nature, and their dissolution to age. Others believed both, amorig whom were those who, when they died, had their camel tied by their sepulchre, and so left, without meat or drink, to perish, and accompany them to the other world, lest they should be obliged, at the resur­rection, to go on foot, which was reckoned very scandalous5.

1 Poc. Spec., p. 98.

2 Quran, C. 2, V.159.

3 Al Mustatraf, al Jaunhari.

4 Al Mustatraf, al Jauhari.

5 Abulfarag, p. 160.


Some believed a metempsychosis, and that of the blood near the dead person's brain was formed a bird named Hamah, which once in a hundred years visited the sepul­chre; though others say this bird was animated by the soul of him that is unjustly slain, and continually cries, Isquni, Isquni, i.e., "give me to drink" - meaning of the murderer's blood-till his death be revenged, and then it flies away. This was forbidden by the Quran to be believed1.

I might here mention several superstitious rites and customs of the ancient Arabs, some of which were abolished and others retained by Muhammad; but I apprehend it will be more convenient to take notice of them hereafter occasionally, as the negative or positive precepts of the Quran, forbidding or allowing such prac­tices, shall be considered.

Let us now turn our view from the idolatrous Arabs, to those among them who had embraced more rational religions.

The Magian inter-religion adopted by some tribes.

The Persians had, by their vicinity and frequent course with the Arabians, introduced the Magian religion among some of their tribes, particularly that of Tamim2, a long time before Muhammad, who was so far from being unacquainted with that religion, that he borrowed many of his own institutions from it, as will be observed in the progress of this work. I refer those who are desirous to have some notion of Magism to Dr. Hyde's curious account of it3, a succinct abridgment of which may be read with much pleasure in another learned performance 4.

Judaism introduced as a result of Roman persecution.

The Jews, who fled in great numbers into Arabia from the fearful destruction of their country by the Romans, made proselytes of several tribes, those of Kinanah, al Harith Ibn Kaabah, and Kindah 5 in particular, and in

1 Vide Poc. Spec., p.135.

2 Al Mustatraf.

3 In his Hist. Relig. Vet. Pers.

4 Dr. Prideaux's Connect. of the Hist. of the Old and New Test. part i. book 4.

5 Al Mustatraf.


time became very powerful, and possessed of several towns and fortresses there. But the Jewish religion was not unknown to the Arabs, at least above a century before. Abu Qarib Asad, taken notice of in the Quran1, who was king of Yaman, about 700 years before Muhammad,* is said to have introduced Ju4aism among the idolatrous Himyarites. Some of his successors also embraced the same religion, one of whom, Yusaf, surnamed Dhu Nuwa's,2 was remarkable for his zeal and terrible persecution of all who would not turn Jews, putting them to death by various tortures, the most common of which was throwing them into a glowing pit of fire, whence he had the oppro­brious appellation of the Lord of the Pit. This persecu­tion is also mentioned in the Quran3.

Christianity in Arabia.

Christianity had likewise made a very great progress among this nation before Muhammad. Whether St. Paul preached in any part of Arabia, properly so called4, is uncertain; but the persecutions and disorders which hap­pened in the Eastern Church soon after the beginning of the third century, obliged great numbers of Christians to seek for shelter in that country of liberty, who, being for the most part of the Jacobite communion, that sect generally pre­vailed among the Arabs5. The principal tribes that embraced Christianity were Himyar, Ghassan, Rabia, Taghlab, Bahra', Tunukh6, part of the tribes of Tay and Kudaa, the inhabitants of Najran, and the Arabs of Hira7. As to the two last, it may be observed that those of Najran became Christians in the time of Dhu Nuwas8, and very probably,

* Here is another instance of the error into which the writers of last century were led by Muslim authors. This Abu' Qarib Asad flourished about the beginning of the third century of our era, and hence about four hundred years before Muhammad. See Introd. Muir's Life of Mahomet, vol. i. p. clvii E.M.W.

1 Chap. 50.

2 See before, p.28, and Baronni, Annal. ad sec vi.

3 Chap. 85, vv. 4,5.

4 See Galat. i. 17.

5 Abulfarag, p.149.

6 Al Mustatraf.

7 Vide Poc. Spec., p.137.

8 Al Jannabi, apud Poe. Spec., p. 63.


if the story be true, were some of those who were con­verted on the following occasion, which happened about that time, or not long before. The Jews of Himyar challenged Some neighbouring Christians to a public dis­putation, which was held sub dio for three days before the king and his nobility and all the people, the disputants being Gregentius, bishop of Tephra (which I take to be Dhafar) for the Christians, and Herbanus for the Jews. On the third day, Herbanus, to end the dispute, demanded that Jesus of Nazareth, if he were really living and in heaven, and could hear the prayers of his worshippers, should appear from heaven in their sight; and they would then believe in him; the Jews crying out with one voice, "Show us your Christ, alas and we will become Chris­tians." Whereupon, after a terrible storm of thunder and lightning, Jesus Christ appeared in the air, surrounded with rays of glory, walking on a purple cloud, having a sword in his hand, and an inestimable diadem on his head, and spake these words over the heads of the assembly, "Behold I appear to you in your sight, I, who was cru­cified by your fathers." After which the cloud received him from their sight. The Christians cried out, "Kyrie eleeson" i.e., "Lord, have mercy upon us;" but the Jews were stricken blind, and recovered not till they were all baptized1. *

The Christians at Hira received a great accession by several tribes, who fled thither for refuge from the persecu­tion of Dhu Nuwa's. Al Numan, surnamed Abu Kabus, king of Hira, who was slain a few months before Muh­ammad's birth, professed himself a Christian on the following occasion. This prince, in a drunken fit, ordered

* We can but wonder at the apparent credulity which could admit a story like this as anything more than a fabrication. The whole account of the persecution of Christians by Dhu Nuwas shows that Christianity had been introduced before his time. E.M.W.

1 Vide Gregentii didput. cutiL Herbano Judaeo.


two of his intimate companions, who overcome with liquor had fallen asleep, to be buried alive. When he came to himself, he was extremely concerned at what he had done, and to expiate his crime, not only raised a monument to the memory of his friends, but set apart two days, one of which he called the unfortunate, and the other the fortunate day; making it a perpetual rule to' himself, that whoever met him on the former day should be slain, and his blood sprinkled on the monument, but he that met him on the other day should be dismissed in safety, with magnificent gifts. On one of those unfortunate days there came before him accidentally an Arab of the tribe of Tay, who had once entertained this king when fatigued with hunting and separated from his attendants. The king, who could neither discharge him, contrary to the order of the day, nor put him to death, against the laws of hospi­tality, which the Arabians religiously observe, proposed, as an expedient, to give the unhappy man a year's respite, and to send him home with rich gifts for the support of his family, on condition that he found a surety for his returning at the year's end to suffer death. One of the prince's court, out of compassion, offered himself as his surety, and the Arab was discharged. When the last day of the term came, and no news of the Arab, the king, not at all displeased to save his host's life, ordered the surety to prepare himself to die. Those who were by represented to the king that the day was not yet expired, and there­fore he ought to have patience till the evening; but in the middle of their discourse the Arab appeared. The king, admiring the man's generosity, in offering himself to cer­tain death, which he might have avoided by letting his surety suffer, asked him what his motive was for so doing? to which he answered, that he had been taught to act in that manner by the religion he professed;

Numan, king of Hira, converted to Christianity

and al Numan, demanding what religion that was, he replied, Christian. Whereupon the king desiring to have the doctrines of Christianity explained to him, was baptized,


he and his subjects; and not only pardoned the man and his surety, but abolished his barbarous custom1. This prince, however, was not the first king of Hira who embraced Christianity; al Mundar, his grandfather, having also professed the same faith, and built large churches in his capital2.

The extent of the Christian Church in Arabia.

Since Christianity had made so great a progress in Arabia, we may consequently suppose they had bishops in several parts, for the more orderly governing of the churches. A bishop of Dhafar has been already named, and we are told that Najran was also a bishop's see3. The Jacobites (of which sect we have observed the Arabs gene­rally were) had two bishops of the Arabs subject to their Mafrian,* or metropolitan of the East; one was called the bishop of the Arabs absolutely, whose seat was for the most part at Akula, which some others make the same with Kufa4, others a different town near Baghdad5. The other had the title of bishop of the Scenite Arabs, of the tribe of Thaalab in Hira, or Hirta, as the Syrians call it, whose seat was in that city. The Nestorians had but one bishop, who presided over both these dioceses of Hira and Akula, and was immediately subject to their patriarch6.

Free thought and Zendicism among the Quraish.

These were the principal religions which obtained among the ancient Arabs; but as freedom of thought was the natural consequence of their political liberty and inde­pendence, some of them fell into other different opinions. The Quraish, in particular, were infected with Zendicism7, an error supposed to have very near affinity with that of the Sadducees among the Jews, and, perhaps, not greatly

* Lane says "the Copts call their metropolitan Matran."- Kuran, p.39, note. E.M.W.

1 Al Maidani and Ahmad Ibn Yusaf, apud Poc. Spec., p.72

2 Abulfeda, apud eund., p.74.

3 Safiu'ddin, apud Poe. Spec., p. 137

4 Abulfarag in Chron. Syriac, MS.

5 Abulfeda in Descr. Iracæ.

6 Vide Assemani, Bibl. Orient., tom. 2, in Dissert. de Monophysitis, and p. 245.

7 Al Mustatraf, apud Poc. Spec., p. 136.


different from Deism; for there were several of that tribe, even before the time of Muhammad, who worshipped one GOD and were free from idolatry1, and yet embraced none of the other religions of the country.

Two classes of Arabs previous to Muhammad.

The Arabians before Muhammad were, as they yet are, divided into two sorts-those who dwell in cities and towns, and those who dwell in tents. The former lived by tillage, the cultivation of palm-trees, breeding and feeding of cattle, and the exercise of all sorts of trades2,particularly merchandising3, wherein they were very emi­nent, even in the time of Jacob. The tribe of Quraish were much addicted to commerce, and Muhammad, in his younger years, was brought up to the same business; it being customary for the Arabians to exercise the same trade that their parents did4. The Arabs who dwelt in tents employed themselves in pasturage, and sometimes in pillaging of passengers; they lived chiefly on the milk and flesh of camels; they often changed their habitations, as the convenience of water and of pasture for their cattle invited them, staying in a place no longer than that lasted, and then removing in search of other 5. They generally wintered in Irak and the confines of Syria. This way of life is what the greater part of Ismail's posterity have used, as more agreeable to the temper and way of life of their father; and is so well described by a late author 6, that I cannot do better than refer the reader to his account of them.

The dialects of the Arabic language.

The Arabic language is undoubtedly one of the most ancient in the world, and arose soon after, if not at, the confusion of Babel. There were several dialects of it, very different from each other: the most remarkable were that spoken by the tribes of Himyar and the other genuine Arabs,

1 Vide Reland, De Relig. Moham., p. 270; and Millium de Mohammedismo ante Moham., p.311.

2 These seem to be the same whom M. La Roque calls Moors. Voy. dans la Palestine, p. 110.

3 See Prideaux's Life of Mahomet, p.6.

4 Strabo, I.16, p.1129.

5 Idem ibid., p.1084.

6 La Roque, Voy. dans la Palestine, p.109, &C


and that of the Quraish. The Himyaritic seems to have approached nearer to the purity of the Syriac than the dialect of any other tribe; for the Arabs acknowledge their father Yarab to have been the first whose tongue deviated from the Syriac (which was his mother tongue, and is almost generally acknowledged by the Asiatics to be the most ancient) to the Arabic. The dialect of the Quraish is usually termed the pure Arabic, or, as the Quran, which is written in this dialect, calls it, the per­spicuous and clear Arabic; perhaps, says Dr. Pocock, because Ismail, their father, brought the Arabic he had learned of the Jorhamites nearer to the original Hebrew. But the politeness and elegance of the dialect of the Quraish is rather to be attributed to their having the Custody of the Kaabah, and dwelling in Makkah, the centre of Arabia, as well more remote from intercourse with foreigners, who might corrupt their language, as frequented by the Arabs from the country all around, not only on a religious account, but also for the composing of their differences, from whose discourse and verses they took whatever words or phrases they judged more pure and elegant; by which means the beauties of the whole tongue became transfused into this dialect. The Arabians are full of the commendations of their language, and not altogether without reason; for it claims the preference of most others in many respects, as being very harmonious and expressive, and withal so copious, that they say no man without inspiration can be perfect master of it in its utmost extent; and yet they tell us, at the same time that the greatest part of it has been lost; which will not be thought strange if we consider how late the art of writing practised among them.

The art of Writing in Arabia

For though it was known to Job1, their countryman, and also to the Himyarites (who used a perplexed character called al Musnad, wherein the letters were not distinctly separate, and which was neither publicly taught, nor suffered to be used

1 Job xix. 23, 24.


without permission first obtained), many centuries before Muhammad, as appears from some ancient monuments, said to be remaining in their character; yet the other Arabs, and those of Makkah in particular, were, for many ages, perfectly ignorant of it, unless such of them as were Jews or Christians 1. Muramir Ibn Murra of Anbar, a city of Irak, who lived not many years before Muhammad, was the inventor of the Arabic character, which Bashar the Kindian is said to have learned from those of Anbar, and to have introduced at Makkah but a little while be­fore the institution of Muhammadism. These letters of Muramir were different from the Himyaritic ; and though they were very rude, being either the same with or very much like the Cufic 2, which character is still found in inscriptions and some ancient books, yet they were those which the Arabs used for many years, the Quran itself being at first written therein; for the beautiful character they now use was first formed from the Cufic by Ibn Muklah, Wazir (or Visir) to the Khalifahs al Muktadir, al Qahir, and al Radi, who lived about three hundred years after Muhammad, and was brought to great perfection by Ali Ibn Bawab 3, who flourished in the following century, and whose name is yet famous among them on that account; yet, it is said, the person who completed it, and reduced it to its present form, was Yaqut al Mustasam, secretary to al Mustasam, the last of the Khalifahs of the family of Abbas, for which reason he was surnamed al Khattai, or the Scribe.

Arab accomplishments and learning.

The accomplishments the Arabs valued themselves chiefly on were: 1. Eloquence, and a perfect skill in their own tongue; 2. Expertness in the use of arms and horse-


1 See Prideaux's Life of Mahomet, pp.29, 30.

2 A specimen of the Cufic character may be seen in Sir J. Chardin's Travels, vol. iii. p. 119.

3 Ibn Khaliqan. Yet others attribute the honour of the invention of this character to Ibn Muklah's brother, Abdallah al Hasan, and the perfecting of it to Ibn Amid al Katib, after it had been reduced to near the present form by Abd'alhamid. Vide D'Herbel., Bibl. Orient., pp.590, 108, and 194.


manship; and 3. Hospitality1. The first they exercised themselves in by composing of orations and poems. Their orations were of two sorts, metrical or prosaic) the one being compared to pearls strung, and the other to loose ones. They endeavoured to excel in both, and whoever was able, in an assembly, to persuade the people to a great enterprise or dissuade them from a dangerous one, or gave them other wholesome advice, was honoured with the title of Khatib, or orator, which is now given to the Muhammadan preachers.

Style of prose and poetry.

They pursued a method very different from that of the Greek and Roman orators; their sentences being like loose gems, without connection, so that this sort of composition struck the audience chiefly by the fulness of the periods, the elegance of the expres­sion, and the acuteness of the proverbial sayings; and so persuaded were they of their excelling in this way, that they would not allow any nation to understand the art of speaking in public except themselves and the Persians, which last were reckoned much inferior in that respect to the Arabians2. Poetry was in so great esteem among them, that it was a great accomplishment, and a proof of ingenious extraction, to be able to express one's self in verse with ease and elegance on any extraordinary occurrence; and even in their common discourse they made frequent applications to celebrated passages of their famous poets. In their poems were preserved the dis­tinction of descents, the rights of tribes, the memory of great actions, and the propriety of their language; for which reasons an excellent poet reflected an

Honor bestowed on poets.

honour on his tribe, so that as soon as any one began to be admired for his performances of this kind in a tribe, the other tribes sent publicly to congratulate them on the occasion, and themselves made entertainments, at which the women assisted, dressed in their nuptial ornaments, singing to the sound of timbrels the happiness of their tribe, who had

1 Poc. Orat. ante Carmen Tograi, p.10.

1 Poc. Spec., p. 161.9


now one to protect their honour, to preserve their genealo­gies and the purity of their language, and to transmit their actions to posterity1; for this was all performed by their poems, to which they were solely obliged for their knowledge and instructions, moral and economical, and to which they had recourse, as to an oracle, in all doubts and differ­ences 2. No wonder, then, that a public congratulation was made on this account, which honour they yet were so far from making cheap, that they never did it but on one of these three occasions, which were reckoned great points of felicity, viz., on the birth of a boy, the rise of a poet, and the fall of a foal of generous breed.

Poetic contests at the fair of Okatz.

To keep up an emulation among their poets, the tribes had, once a year, a general assembly at Okatz,3 a place famous on this account, and where they kept a weekly mart or fair, which was held on our Sunday 4. This annual meeting lasted a whole month, during which time they employed themselves, not only in trading, but in repeating their poetical compositions, contending and vicing with each other for the prize whence the place, it is said, took its name 5. The poems that were judged to excel were laid up in their kings' treasuries, as were the seven celebrated poems, thence called al Muallaqat, rather than from their being hung up on the Kaabah, which honour they also had by public order, being written on Egyptian silk and in letters of gold; for which reason they had also the name of al Mudhahabat, or the golden verses.

This fair suppressed by Muhammad.

The fair and assembly at Okatz were suppressed by Muhammad, in whose time, and for some years after, poetry seems to have been in some degree neglected by the Arabs, who were then employed in their conquests; which being completed, and themselves at peace, not only

1 Ibn Rashik, apud Poc. Spec.,p. 160.

2 Poc. Orat. præfix. Carm. Tograi, ubi supra.

3 Idem, Spec., p.159.

4 Geogr. Nub., p.51.

5 Poc. Spec., p. 159.

6 Ibid., and p.381. Et in calce Notar. in Carmen Tograi, p.233.


this study was revived1, but almost all sorts of learning were encouraged and greatly improved by them. This interruption, however, occasioned the loss of most of their ancient pieces of poetry, which were then chiefly preserved by memory; the use of writing being rare among them in their time of ignorance2. Though the Arabs were so early acquainted with poetry, they did not at first use to write poems of a just length, but only expressed themselves in verse occasionally; nor was their prosody digested into rules, till some time after Muhammad;3 for this was done, as it is said, by al Khalil Ahmad al Farahidi, who lived in the reign of the Khalifah Harun al Rashid4.

Arab equestrian and military training.

The exercise of arms and horsemanship they were in a manner obliged to practise and encourage, by reason of the independence of their tribes, whose frequent jarrings made wars almost continual; and they chiefly ended their disputes in field battles, it being a usual saying among them that GOD had bestowed four peculiar things on the Arabs - that their turbans should be to them instead of diadems, their tents instead of walls and houses, their swords instead of entrenchments, and their poems instead of written laws5.

Their hospitality and liberality.

Hospitality was so habitual to them, and so much esteemed, that the examples of this kind among them exceed whatever can be produced from other nations. Hatim, of the tribe of Tay6, and Hasan, of that of Fizarah7, were particularly famous on this account; and the con-

1 Jalaluddin al Soyu., apud Poc. Spec., p. 159, &C

2 Ibid., p. 160.

3 Ibid., 161. Al Safadi confirms this by a story of a grammarian named Abu Jaafar, who sitting by the Mikyas or Nilometer in Egypt, in a year when the Nile did not rise to its usual height, so that a famine was apprehended, and dividing a piece of poetry into its parts or feet, to examine them by the rules of art, some who passed by not understanding him, imagined he was uttering a charm to hinder the rise of the river, and pushed him into the water, where he lost his life.

4 Vide Clericum de Prosod. Arab.,p.2.

5 Pocock, in calce Notar. ad Carmen Tograi.

6 Vide Gentii Notas in Gulistan Sheikh Sadi, p.486, &c.

7 Poc. Spec., p.48.


trary vice was so much in contempt, that a certain poet upbraids the inhabitants of Wasat, as with the greatest reproach, that none of their men had the heart to give nor their women to deny1.

Nor were the Arabs less propense to liberality after the coming of Muhammad than their ancestors had been. I could produce many remarkable instances of this com­mendable quality among them2, but shall content myself with the following. Three men were disputing in the court of the Kaabah which was the most liberal person among the Arabs. One gave the preference to Abdallah, the soil of Jaafar, the uncle of Muhammad; another to Qais Ibn Saad Ibn Obadah; and the third gave it to Arabah, of the tribe of Aws. After much debate, one that was present, to end the dispute, proposed that each of them should go to his friend and ask his assistance, that they might see what every one gave, and form a judgment accordingly. This was agreed to; and Abdallah's friend, going to him, found him with his foot in the stirrup, just mounting his camel for a journey, and thus accosted him: "Son of the apostle of GOD, I am travelling and in necessity." Upon which Abdallah alighted, and bade him take the camel with all that was upon her, but desired him not to part with a sword which happened to be fixed to the saddle, because it had belonged to Ali, the son of Abutalib. So he took the camel, and found on her some vests of silk and 4000 pieces of gold; but the thing of greatest value was the sword. The second went to Qais Ibn Saad, whose servant told him that his master was asleep, and desired to know his business. The friend answered that ho came to ask Qais's assistance, being in want on the road. Whereupon the servant said that he had rather supply his necessity than wake his muster, and gave him a purse of 7000 pieces of gold, assuring him that it was all the money then in

1 Ibn al Hubairah, apud Poc. in Not. ad Carmen Tograi, p.107.

2 Several may be found in D'Herbelot's Bibi. Orient., particularly in the articles of Hasan the son of Ali. Maan Fadhal, and Ibn Yahya.


the house. He also directed him to go to those who had the charge of the camels, with a certain token, and take a camel and a slave and return home with them. When Qais awoke, and his servant informed him of what he had done, he gave him his freedom, and asked him why he did not call him, "For," says he, "I would have given him more." The third man went to Arabah, and met him coming out of his house in order to go to prayers, and leaning on two slaves, because his eyesight failed him. The friend no sooner made known his case, but Arabah let go the slaves, and clapping his hands together, loudly lamented his misfortune in having no money, but desired him to take the two slaves, which the man refused to do, till Arabah protested that if he would not accept of them he gave them their liberty, and leaving the slaves, groped his way along by the wall. On the return of the adventurers, judgment was unanimous, and with great justice, given by all who were present, that Arabah was the most generous of the three.

Nor were these the only good qualities of the Arabs; they are commended by the ancients for being most exact to their words1 and respectful to their kindred2. And they have always been celebrated for their quickness of apprehension and penetration, and the vivacity of their wit, especially those of the desert3.

Their national defects and vices.

As the Arabs have their excellences, so have they, like other nations, their defects and vices. Their own writers acknowledge that they have a natural disposition to war, bloodshed, cruelty,* and rapine, being so much addicted

* On the authority of Lane I give the following from Burckhardt's Notes on the Bedouins and Wahhabys, vol. i. p. 185 :- "The Turk is cruel, the Arab of more kind temper; he pities and supports the wretched, and never forgets the generosity shown to him even by an enemy. Not accustomed to the sanguinary scenes that harden and

1 Herodot., I. 3, c. 8.

2 Strabo, I. 16, p. 1129.

3 Vide D'Herbel., Bibl. Orient, p.121.


to bear malice that they scarce ever forget an old grudge; which vindictive temper some physicians say is occasioned by their frequently feeding on camels' flesh * (the ordinary diet of the Arabs of the desert, who are therefore observed to be most inclined to these vices), that creature being most malicious and tenacious of anger,1 which account suggests a good reason for a distinction of meats.

Strange apology for plundering propensity.

The frequent robberies committed by these people on merchants and travellers have rendered the name of an Arab almost infamous in Europe; this they are sensible of, and endeavour to excuse themselves by alleging the hard usage of their father Ismai'l, who, being turned out of doors by Abraham, had the open plains and deserts given him by GOD for his patrimony, with permission to take whatever he could find there; and on this account they think they may, with a safe conscience, indemnify themselves as well as they can, not only on the posterity of Isaac, but also on everybody else, always supposing a sort of kindred between themselves and those they plunder. And in relating their adventures of this kind, they think it sufficient to change the expression, and instead of "I robbed a man of such or such a thing" " to say "I gained it."2 We must not, however, imagine that they are the less honest for this among themselves, or towards those

corrupt an Osmanly's heart, the Bedouin learns at an early period of life to abstain and to suffer, and to know from experience the healing power of pity and consolation." - Kuran p.48, note. E.M.W.

* This, again, according to Burckhardt, is a mistake, for he says that the slaughter of a camel rarely happens. (See his , vol. i. p.63 ; Lane's Kuran p.48.) But the testimony of tradition to the fact that the Quraish, during their expedition against Muhammad which resulted in the battle of Badr, slaughtered nine camels daily, would seem to indicate that, what­ever modern custom may be, the Arabs of Muhammad's time indulged very freely in camels' flesh. E.M.W.

1 Vide Poc. Spec., p.87; Bochart, Hierozoic., I.2, c. I.

2 Voyage dans la Palest, p.220, &C


whom they receive as friends; on the contrary, the strictest probity is observed in their camp, where everything is open and nothing ever known to be stolen.*1

The sciences in Arabia previous to Muhammad.

The sciences the Arabians chiefly cultivated before to Muhammadism were three - that of their genealogies and history, such a knowledge of the stars as to foretell the changes of wearer, and the interpretation of dreams2. They used to value themselves excessively on account of the nobility of their families, and so many disputes happened on that occasion, that it is no wonder if they took great pains in settling their descents. What knowledge they had of the stars was gathered from long experi­ence, and not from any regular study or astronomical rules3. The Arabians, as the Indians also did, chiefly applied themselves to observe the fixed stars, contrary to other nations, whose observations were almost confined to the

* That this statement is incorrect is evident from the following remarks in Burckhardt's Notes on the Bedouins and Wahhabys, vol. i. pp. 157, 158 : - "The Arabs may be styled a nation of robbers, whose principle occupation is plunder, the constant subject of their thoughts. But we must not attach to this practice the same notions of crimi­nality that we entertain respecting highwaymen housebreakers, and thieves in Europe. The Arabian robber considers his profession as honourable, and the term haramy (robber) is one of the most flatter­ing titles that could be conferred on a youthful hero. The Arab robs his enemies, his friends, and his neighbours, provided that they are not actually in his own tent, where their property is sacred. To rob in the camp or among friendly tribes is not reckoned creditable to a man, yet no stain remains upon him for such an action, which, in fact, is of daily occurrence. But the Arab chiefly prides himself on robbing his enemies, and on bringing away by stealth what he could not have taken by open force. The Bedouins have reduced robbery in all its branches to a complete and regular system, which offers many interesting details."

For these details the reader is referred to the excellent work from which the above is quoted, Lane's Kuran, note to p.49. E.M.W.

1 Voyage dans Ia Palest., p.213,&C.

2 Al Shahnstani, apud Poc. Orat., ubi sup., p.9, and Spec., p.164.

3 Abulfarag, p.161.


planets and they foretold their effects from their influences, their nature; and hence, as has been said, arose the difference of the idolatry of the Greeks and Chaldeans, who chiefly worshipped the planets, and that of the Indians, who worshipped the fixed stars. The stars or asterisms they most usually foretold the weather by were those they called Anwa, or the houses of the moon. These are twenty ­eight in number, and divide the zodiac into as many parts, through one of which the moon passes every night1; as some of them set in the morning, others rise opposite to them, which happens every thirteenth night; and from their rising and setting, the Arabs, by long experience, observed what changes happened in the air, and at length, as has been said, came to ascribe divine power to them; saying that their rain was from such or such a star; which expression Muhammad condemned, and absolutely forbade them to use it in the old sense, unless they meant no more by it than that GOD had so ordered the seasons, that when the moon was in such or such a mansion or house, or at the rising or setting of such and such a star, it should rain or be windy, hot or cold2.

The old Arabians therefore, seem to have made no further progress in astronomy, which science they after­wards cultivated with so much success and applause,*

* R. Bosworth Smith, in his Lectures on Muhammad and Muhammadanism p. 216, makes the following statement on this subject: -

"During the dark period of European history, the Arabs for five hundred years held up the torch of learning to humanity. It was the Arabs who then 'called the Muses from their ancient seats ;' who collected and translated the writings of the Greek masters; who understood the geometry of Apollonius, and wielded the weapons found in the logical armoury of Aristotle. It was the Arabs who developed the sciences of agriculture and astronomy, and created those of algebra and chemistry; who adorned their cities with

1 Vide Hyde in not. ad Tabulas stellar fixar. Ulugh Beigh, p.5.

2 Vide Poc. Spec., p.163, &c.


than to observe the influence of the stars on the weather and to give them names; and this it was obvious for them to do, by reason of their pastoral way of life, lying night and day in the open plains. The names they imposed on the stars generally alluded to cattle and flocks, and they were so nice in distinguishing them, that no language has so many names of stars and asterisms as the Arabic; for though they have since borrowed the names of several constellations from the Greeks, yet the far greater part are of their own growth, and much more ancient, particularly those of the more conspicuous stars, dispersed in several constellations, and those of the lesser constellations which are contained within the greater, and were not observed or named by the Greeks1.

Thus have I given the most succinct account I have been able of the state of the ancient Arabians before Muham­mad, or, to use their expression, in the time of ignorance. I shall now proceed briefly to consider the state of religion in the East, and of the two great empires which divided that part of the world between them at the time of Mu­hammad's setting up for a prophet, and what were the conducive circumstances and accidents that favoured his success. colleges and libraries, as well as with mosques and palaces; who supplied Europe with a school of philosophers from Cordova, and a school of physicians from Salerno."

This expresses the opinion of a numerous class of modern writers on Islam. But, whilst according to the Arabs all praise for what they did towards the preservation and advancement of learning during the dark ages, we cannot see that astronomy, as a science, owes much to Arab genius. As in regard to philosophical learning and medical science, so in regard to astronomy, it may be fairly said that the Muslims did not improve on their Greek masters. They never succeeded in elevating it out of the region of astrology.

On this question, see Arnold's Islam and Christianity, pp. 233-236. E.M.W.

1 Vide Hyde, ubi sup., p.4.

Table of Contents

Click to View