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Ch. 2 - Hero as Prophet

[May 8, 1840.]

From the first rude times of Paganism among the Scandinavians in the North,
we advance to a very different epoch of religion, among a very different
people: Mahometanism among the Arabs. A great change; what a change and
progress is indicated here, in the universal condition and thoughts of men!

The Hero is not now regarded as a God among his fellowmen; but as one
God-inspired, as a Prophet. It is the second phasis of Hero-worship: the
first or oldest, we may say, has passed away without return; in the history
of the world there will not again be any man, never so great, whom his
fellowmen will take for a god. Nay we might rationally ask, Did any set of
human beings ever really think the man they _saw_ there standing beside
them a god, the maker of this world? Perhaps not: it was usually some man
they remembered, or _had_ seen. But neither can this any more be. The
Great Man is not recognized henceforth as a god any more.

It was a rude gross error, that of counting the Great Man a god. Yet let
us say that it is at all times difficult to know _what_ he is, or how to
account of him and receive him! The most significant feature in the
history of an epoch is the manner it has of welcoming a Great Man. Ever,
to the true instincts of men, there is something godlike in him. Whether
they shall take him to be a god, to be a prophet, or what they shall take
him to be? that is ever a grand question; by their way of answering that,
we shall see, as through a little window, into the very heart of these
men's spiritual condition. For at bottom the Great Man, as he comes from
the hand of Nature, is ever the same kind of thing: Odin, Luther, Johnson,
Burns; I hope to make it appear that these are all originally of one stuff;
that only by the world's reception of them, and the shapes they assume, are
they so immeasurably diverse. The worship of Odin astonishes us,--to fall
prostrate before the Great Man, into _deliquium_ of love and wonder over
him, and feel in their hearts that he was a denizen of the skies, a god!
This was imperfect enough: but to welcome, for example, a Burns as we did,
was that what we can call perfect? The most precious gift that Heaven can
give to the Earth; a man of "genius" as we call it; the Soul of a Man
actually sent down from the skies with a God's-message to us,--this we
waste away as an idle artificial firework, sent to amuse us a little, and
sink it into ashes, wreck and ineffectuality: _such_ reception of a Great
Man I do not call very perfect either! Looking into the heart of the
thing, one may perhaps call that of Burns a still uglier phenomenon,
betokening still sadder imperfections in mankind's ways, than the
Scandinavian method itself! To fall into mere unreasoning _deliquium_ of
love and admiration, was not good; but such unreasoning, nay irrational
supercilious no-love at all is perhaps still worse!--It is a thing forever
changing, this of Hero-worship: different in each age, difficult to do
well in any age. Indeed, the heart of the whole business of the age, one
may say, is to do it well.

We have chosen Mahomet not as the most eminent Prophet; but as the one we
are freest to speak of. He is by no means the truest of Prophets; but I do
esteem him a true one. Farther, as there is no danger of our becoming, any
of us, Mahometans, I mean to say all the good of him I justly can. It is
the way to get at his secret: let us try to understand what _he_ meant
with the world; what the world meant and means with him, will then be a
more answerable question. Our current hypothesis about Mahomet, that he
was a scheming Impostor, a Falsehood incarnate, that his religion is a mere
mass of quackery and fatuity, begins really to be now untenable to any one.
The lies, which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man, are
disgraceful to ourselves only. When Pococke inquired of Grotius, Where the
proof was of that story of the pigeon, trained to pick peas from Mahomet's
ear, and pass for an angel dictating to him? Grotius answered that there
was no proof! It is really time to dismiss all that. The word this man
spoke has been the life-guidance now of a hundred and eighty millions of
men these twelve hundred years. These hundred and eighty millions were
made by God as well as we. A greater number of God's creatures believe in
Mahomet's word at this hour, than in any other word whatever. Are we to
suppose that it was a miserable piece of spiritual legerdemain, this which
so many creatures of the Almighty have lived by and died by? I, for my
part, cannot form any such supposition. I will believe most things sooner
than that. One would be entirely at a loss what to think of this world at
all, if quackery so grew and were sanctioned here.

Alas, such theories are very lamentable. If we would attain to knowledge
of anything in God's true Creation, let us disbelieve them wholly! They
are the product of an Age of Scepticism: they indicate the saddest
spiritual paralysis, and mere death-life of the souls of men: more godless
theory, I think, was never promulgated in this Earth. A false man found a
religion? Why, a false man cannot build a brick house! If he do not know
and follow truly the properties of mortar, burnt clay and what else be
works in, it is no house that he makes, but a rubbish-heap. It will not
stand for twelve centuries, to lodge a hundred and eighty millions; it will
fall straightway. A man must conform himself to Nature's laws, _be_ verily
in communion with Nature and the truth of things, or Nature will answer
him, No, not at all! Speciosities are specious--ah me!--a Cagliostro, many
Cagliostros, prominent world-leaders, do prosper by their quackery, for a
day. It is like a forged bank-note; they get it passed out of _their_
worthless hands: others, not they, have to smart for it. Nature bursts up
in fire-flames, French Revolutions and such like, proclaiming with terrible
veracity that forged notes are forged.

But of a Great Man especially, of him I will venture to assert that it is
incredible he should have been other than true. It seems to me the primary
foundation of him, and of all that can lie in him, this. No Mirabeau,
Napoleon, Burns, Cromwell, no man adequate to do anything, but is first of
all in right earnest about it; what I call a sincere man. I should say
_sincerity_, a deep, great, genuine sincerity, is the first characteristic
of all men in any way heroic. Not the sincerity that calls itself sincere;
ah no, that is a very poor matter indeed;--a shallow braggart conscious
sincerity; oftenest self-conceit mainly. The Great Man's sincerity is of
the kind he cannot speak of, is not conscious of: nay, I suppose, he is
conscious rather of insincerity; for what man can walk accurately by the
law of truth for one day? No, the Great Man does not boast himself
sincere, far from that; perhaps does not ask himself if he is so: I would
say rather, his sincerity does not depend on himself; he cannot help being
sincere! The great Fact of Existence is great to him. Fly as he will, he
cannot get out of the awful presence of this Reality. His mind is so made;
he is great by that, first of all. Fearful and wonderful, real as Life,
real as Death, is this Universe to him. Though all men should forget its
truth, and walk in a vain show, he cannot. At all moments the Flame-image
glares in upon him; undeniable, there, there!--I wish you to take this as
my primary definition of a Great Man. A little man may have this, it is

competent to all men that God has made: but a Great Man cannot be without

Such a man is what we call an _original_ man; he comes to us at first-hand.
A messenger he, sent from the Infinite Unknown with tidings to us. We may
call him Poet, Prophet, God;--in one way or other, we all feel that the
words he utters are as no other man's words. Direct from the Inner Fact of
things;--he lives, and has to live, in daily communion with that. Hearsays
cannot hide it from him; he is blind, homeless, miserable, following
hearsays; _it_ glares in upon him. Really his utterances, are they not a
kind of "revelation;"--what we must call such for want of some other name?
It is from the heart of the world that he comes; he is portion of the
primal reality of things. God has made many revelations: but this man
too, has not God made him, the latest and newest of all? The "inspiration
of the Almighty giveth him understanding:" we must listen before all to

This Mahomet, then, we will in no wise consider as an Inanity and
Theatricality, a poor conscious ambitious schemer; we cannot conceive him
so. The rude message he delivered was a real one withal; an earnest
confused voice from the unknown Deep. The man's words were not false, nor
his workings here below; no Inanity and Simulacrum; a fiery mass of Life
cast up from the great bosom of Nature herself. To _kindle_ the world; the
world's Maker had ordered it so. Neither can the faults, imperfections,
insincerities even, of Mahomet, if such were never so well proved against
him, shake this primary fact about him.

On the whole, we make too much of faults; the details of the business hide
the real centre of it. Faults? The greatest of faults, I should say, is
to be conscious of none. Readers of the Bible above all, one would think,
might know better. Who is called there "the man according to God's own
heart"? David, the Hebrew King, had fallen into sins enough; blackest
crimes; there was no want of sins. And thereupon the unbelievers sneer and
ask, Is this your man according to God's heart? The sneer, I must say,
seems to me but a shallow one. What are faults, what are the outward
details of a life; if the inner secret of it, the remorse, temptations,
true, often-baffled, never-ended struggle of it, be forgotten? "It is not
in man that walketh to direct his steps." Of all acts, is not, for a man,
_repentance_ the most divine? The deadliest sin, I say, were that same
supercilious consciousness of no sin;--that is death; the heart so
conscious is divorced from sincerity, humility and fact; is dead: it is
"pure" as dead dry sand is pure. David's life and history, as written for
us in those Psalms of his, I consider to be the truest emblem ever given of
a man's moral progress and warfare here below. All earnest souls will ever
discern in it the faithful struggle of an earnest human soul towards what
is good and best. Struggle often baffled, sore baffled, down as into
entire wreck; yet a struggle never ended; ever, with tears, repentance,
true unconquerable purpose, begun anew. Poor human nature! Is not a man's
walking, in truth, always that: "a succession of falls"? Man can do no
other. In this wild element of a Life, he has to struggle onwards; now
fallen, deep-abased; and ever, with tears, repentance, with bleeding heart,
he has to rise again, struggle again still onwards. That his struggle _be_
a faithful unconquerable one: that is the question of questions. We will
put up with many sad details, if the soul of it were true. Details by
themselves will never teach us what it is. I believe we misestimate
Mahomet's faults even as faults: but the secret of him will never be got
by dwelling there. We will leave all this behind us; and assuring
ourselves that he did mean some true thing, ask candidly what it was or
might be.

These Arabs Mahomet was born among are certainly a notable people. Their
country itself is notable; the fit habitation for such a race. Savage
inaccessible rock-mountains, great grim deserts, alternating with beautiful
strips of verdure: wherever water is, there is greenness, beauty;
odoriferous balm-shrubs, date-trees, frankincense-trees. Consider that
wide waste horizon of sand, empty, silent, like a sand-sea, dividing
habitable place from habitable. You are all alone there, left alone with
the Universe; by day a fierce sun blazing down on it with intolerable
radiance; by night the great deep Heaven with its stars. Such a country is
fit for a swift-handed, deep-hearted race of men. There is something most
agile, active, and yet most meditative, enthusiastic in the Arab character.
The Persians are called the French of the East; we will call the Arabs
Oriental Italians. A gifted noble people; a people of wild strong
feelings, and of iron restraint over these: the characteristic of
noble-mindedness, of genius. The wild Bedouin welcomes the stranger to his
tent, as one having right to all that is there; were it his worst enemy, he
will slay his foal to treat him, will serve him with sacred hospitality for
three days, will set him fairly on his way;--and then, by another law as
sacred, kill him if he can. In words too as in action. They are not a
loquacious people, taciturn rather; but eloquent, gifted when they do
speak. An earnest, truthful kind of men. They are, as we know, of Jewish
kindred: but with that deadly terrible earnestness of the Jews they seem
to combine something graceful, brilliant, which is not Jewish. They had
"Poetic contests" among them before the time of Mahomet. Sale says, at
Ocadh, in the South of Arabia, there were yearly fairs, and there, when the
merchandising was done, Poets sang for prizes:--the wild people gathered to
hear that.

One Jewish quality these Arabs manifest; the outcome of many or of all high
qualities: what we may call religiosity. From of old they had been
zealous worshippers, according to their light. They worshipped the stars,
as Sabeans; worshipped many natural objects,--recognized them as symbols,
immediate manifestations, of the Maker of Nature. It was wrong; and yet
not wholly wrong. All God's works are still in a sense symbols of God. Do
we not, as I urged, still account it a merit to recognize a certain
inexhaustible significance, "poetic beauty" as we name it, in all natural
objects whatsoever? A man is a poet, and honored, for doing that, and
speaking or singing it,--a kind of diluted worship. They had many
Prophets, these Arabs; Teachers each to his tribe, each according to the
light he had. But indeed, have we not from of old the noblest of proofs,
still palpable to every one of us, of what devoutness and noble-mindedness
had dwelt in these rustic thoughtful peoples? Biblical critics seem agreed
that our own _Book of Job_ was written in that region of the world. I call
that, apart from all theories about it, one of the grandest things ever
written with pen. One feels, indeed, as if it were not Hebrew; such a
noble universality, different from noble patriotism or sectarianism, reigns
in it. A noble Book; all men's Book! It is our first, oldest statement of
the never-ending Problem,--man's destiny, and God's ways with him here in
this earth. And all in such free flowing outlines; grand in its sincerity,
in its simplicity; in its epic melody, and repose of reconcilement. There
is the seeing eye, the mildly understanding heart. So _true_ every way;
true eyesight and vision for all things; material things no less than
spiritual: the Horse,--"hast thou clothed his neck with _thunder_?"--he
"_laughs_ at the shaking of the spear!" Such living likenesses were never
since drawn. Sublime sorrow, sublime reconciliation; oldest choral melody
as of the heart of mankind;--so soft, and great; as the summer midnight, as
the world with its seas and stars! There is nothing written, I think, in
the Bible or out of it, of equal literary merit.--

To the idolatrous Arabs one of the most ancient universal objects of
worship was that Black Stone, still kept in the building called Caabah, at
Mecca. Diodorus Siculus mentions this Caabah in a way not to be mistaken,
as the oldest, most honored temple in his time; that is, some half-century
before our Era. Silvestre de Sacy says there is some likelihood that the
Black Stone is an aerolite. In that case, some man might _see_ it fall out
of Heaven! It stands now beside the Well Zemzem; the Caabah is built over
both. A Well is in all places a beautiful affecting object, gushing out
like life from the hard earth;--still more so in those hot dry countries,
where it is the first condition of being. The Well Zemzem has its name
from the bubbling sound of the waters, _zem-zem_; they think it is the Well
which Hagar found with her little Ishmael in the wilderness: the aerolite
and it have been sacred now, and had a Caabah over them, for thousands of
years. A curious object, that Caabah! There it stands at this hour, in
the black cloth-covering the Sultan sends it yearly; "twenty-seven cubits
high;" with circuit, with double circuit of pillars, with festoon-rows of
lamps and quaint ornaments: the lamps will be lighted again _this_
night,--to glitter again under the stars. An authentic fragment of the
oldest Past. It is the _Keblah_ of all Moslem: from Delhi all onwards to
Morocco, the eyes of innumerable praying men are turned towards it, five
times, this day and all days: one of the notablest centres in the
Habitation of Men.

It had been from the sacredness attached to this Caabah Stone and Hagar's
Well, from the pilgrimings of all tribes of Arabs thither, that Mecca took
its rise as a Town. A great town once, though much decayed now. It has no
natural advantage for a town; stands in a sandy hollow amid bare barren
hills, at a distance from the sea; its provisions, its very bread, have to
be imported. But so many pilgrims needed lodgings: and then all places of
pilgrimage do, from the first, become places of trade. The first day
pilgrims meet, merchants have also met: where men see themselves assembled
for one object, they find that they can accomplish other objects which
depend on meeting together. Mecca became the Fair of all Arabia. And
thereby indeed the chief staple and warehouse of whatever Commerce there
was between the Indian and the Western countries, Syria, Egypt, even Italy.
It had at one time a population of 100,000; buyers, forwarders of those
Eastern and Western products; importers for their own behoof of provisions
and corn. The government was a kind of irregular aristocratic republic,
not without a touch of theocracy. Ten Men of a chief tribe, chosen in some
rough way, were Governors of Mecca, and Keepers of the Caabah. The Koreish
were the chief tribe in Mahomet's time; his own family was of that tribe.
The rest of the Nation, fractioned and cut asunder by deserts, lived under
similar rude patriarchal governments by one or several: herdsmen,
carriers, traders, generally robbers too; being oftenest at war one with
another, or with all: held together by no open bond, if it were not this
meeting at the Caabah, where all forms of Arab Idolatry assembled in common
adoration;--held mainly by the _inward_ indissoluble bond of a common blood
and language. In this way had the Arabs lived for long ages, unnoticed by
the world; a people of great qualities, unconsciously waiting for the day
when they should become notable to all the world. Their Idolatries appear
to have been in a tottering state; much was getting into confusion and
fermentation among them. Obscure tidings of the most important Event ever
transacted in this world, the Life and Death of the Divine Man in Judea, at
once the symptom and cause of immeasurable change to all people in the
world, had in the course of centuries reached into Arabia too; and could
not but, of itself, have produced fermentation there.

It was among this Arab people, so circumstanced, in the year 570 of our
Era, that the man Mahomet was born. He was of the family of Hashem, of the
Koreish tribe as we said; though poor, connected with the chief persons of
his country. Almost at his birth he lost his Father; at the age of six
years his Mother too, a woman noted for her beauty, her worth and sense:
he fell to the charge of his Grandfather, an old man, a hundred years old.
A good old man: Mahomet's Father, Abdallah, had been his youngest favorite
son. He saw in Mahomet, with his old life-worn eyes, a century old, the
lost Abdallah come back again, all that was left of Abdallah. He loved the
little orphan Boy greatly; used to say, They must take care of that
beautiful little Boy, nothing in their kindred was more precious than he.
At his death, while the boy was still but two years old, he left him in
charge to Abu Thaleb the eldest of the Uncles, as to him that now was head
of the house. By this Uncle, a just and rational man as everything
betokens, Mahomet was brought up in the best Arab way.

Mahomet, as he grew up, accompanied his Uncle on trading journeys and such
like; in his eighteenth year one finds him a fighter following his Uncle in
war. But perhaps the most significant of all his journeys is one we find
noted as of some years' earlier date: a journey to the Fairs of Syria.
The young man here first came in contact with a quite foreign world,--with
one foreign element of endless moment to him: the Christian Religion. I
know not what to make of that "Sergius, the Nestorian Monk," whom Abu
Thaleb and he are said to have lodged with; or how much any monk could have
taught one still so young. Probably enough it is greatly exaggerated, this
of the Nestorian Monk. Mahomet was only fourteen; had no language but his
own: much in Syria must have been a strange unintelligible whirlpool to
him. But the eyes of the lad were open; glimpses of many things would
doubtless be taken in, and lie very enigmatic as yet, which were to ripen
in a strange way into views, into beliefs and insights one day. These
journeys to Syria were probably the beginning of much to Mahomet.

One other circumstance we must not forget: that he had no school-learning;
of the thing we call school-learning none at all. The art of writing was
but just introduced into Arabia; it seems to be the true opinion that
Mahomet never could write! Life in the Desert, with its experiences, was
all his education. What of this infinite Universe he, from his dim place,
with his own eyes and thoughts, could take in, so much and no more of it
was he to know. Curious, if we will reflect on it, this of having no
books. Except by what he could see for himself, or hear of by uncertain
rumor of speech in the obscure Arabian Desert, he could know nothing. The
wisdom that had been before him or at a distance from him in the world, was
in a manner as good as not there for him. Of the great brother souls,
flame-beacons through so many lands and times, no one directly communicates
with this great soul. He is alone there, deep down in the bosom of the
Wilderness; has to grow up so,--alone with Nature and his own Thoughts.

But, from an early age, he had been remarked as a thoughtful man. His
companions named him "_Al Amin_, The Faithful." A man of truth and
fidelity; true in what he did, in what he spake and thought. They noted
that _he_ always meant something. A man rather taciturn in speech; silent
when there was nothing to be said; but pertinent, wise, sincere, when he
did speak; always throwing light on the matter. This is the only sort of
speech _worth_ speaking! Through life we find him to have been regarded as
an altogether solid, brotherly, genuine man. A serious, sincere character;
yet amiable, cordial, companionable, jocose even;--a good laugh in him
withal: there are men whose laugh is as untrue as anything about them; who
cannot laugh. One hears of Mahomet's beauty: his fine sagacious honest
face, brown florid complexion, beaming black eyes;--I somehow like too that
vein on the brow, which swelled up black when he was in anger: like the
"_horseshoe_ vein" in Scott's _Redgauntlet_. It was a kind of feature in
the Hashem family, this black swelling vein in the brow; Mahomet had it
prominent, as would appear. A spontaneous, passionate, yet just,
true-meaning man! Full of wild faculty, fire and light; of wild worth, all
uncultured; working out his life-task in the depths of the Desert there.

How he was placed with Kadijah, a rich Widow, as her Steward, and travelled
in her business, again to the Fairs of Syria; how he managed all, as one
can well understand, with fidelity, adroitness; how her gratitude, her
regard for him grew: the story of their marriage is altogether a graceful
intelligible one, as told us by the Arab authors. He was twenty-five; she
forty, though still beautiful. He seems to have lived in a most
affectionate, peaceable, wholesome way with this wedded benefactress;
loving her truly, and her alone. It goes greatly against the impostor
theory, the fact that he lived in this entirely unexceptionable, entirely
quiet and commonplace way, till the heat of his years was done. He was
forty before he talked of any mission from Heaven. All his irregularities,
real and supposed, date from after his fiftieth year, when the good Kadijah
died. All his "ambition," seemingly, had been, hitherto, to live an honest
life; his "fame," the mere good opinion of neighbors that knew him, had
been sufficient hitherto. Not till he was already getting old, the
prurient heat of his life all burnt out, and _peace_ growing to be the
chief thing this world could give him, did he start on the "career of
ambition;" and, belying all his past character and existence, set up as a
wretched empty charlatan to acquire what he could now no longer enjoy! For
my share, I have no faith whatever in that.

Ah no: this deep-hearted Son of the Wilderness, with his beaming black
eyes and open social deep soul, had other thoughts in him than ambition. A
silent great soul; he was one of those who cannot _but_ be in earnest; whom
Nature herself has appointed to be sincere. While others walk in formulas
and hearsays, contented enough to dwell there, this man could not screen
himself in formulas; he was alone with his own soul and the reality of
things. The great Mystery of Existence, as I said, glared in upon him,
with its terrors, with its splendors; no hearsays could hide that
unspeakable fact, "Here am I!" Such _sincerity_, as we named it, has in
very truth something of divine. The word of such a man is a Voice direct
from Nature's own Heart. Men do and must listen to that as to nothing
else;--all else is wind in comparison. From of old, a thousand thoughts,
in his pilgrimings and wanderings, had been in this man: What am I? What
_is_ this unfathomable Thing I live in, which men name Universe? What is
Life; what is Death? What am I to believe? What am I to do? The grim
rocks of Mount Hara, of Mount Sinai, the stern sandy solitudes answered
not. The great Heaven rolling silent overhead, with its blue-glancing
stars, answered not. There was no answer. The man's own soul, and what of
God's inspiration dwelt there, had to answer!

It is the thing which all men have to ask themselves; which we too have to
ask, and answer. This wild man felt it to be of _infinite_ moment; all
other things of no moment whatever in comparison. The jargon of
argumentative Greek Sects, vague traditions of Jews, the stupid routine of
Arab Idolatry: there was no answer in these. A Hero, as I repeat, has
this first distinction, which indeed we may call first and last, the Alpha
and Omega of his whole Heroism, That he looks through the shows of things
into _things_. Use and wont, respectable hearsay, respectable formula:
all these are good, or are not good. There is something behind and beyond
all these, which all these must correspond with, be the image of, or they
are--_Idolatries_; "bits of black wood pretending to be God;" to the
earnest soul a mockery and abomination. Idolatries never so gilded, waited
on by heads of the Koreish, will do nothing for this man. Though all men
walk by them, what good is it? The great Reality stands glaring there upon
_him_. He there has to answer it, or perish miserably. Now, even now, or
else through all Eternity never! Answer it; _thou_ must find an
answer.--Ambition? What could all Arabia do for this man; with the crown
of Greek Heraclius, of Persian Chosroes, and all crowns in the Earth;--what
could they all do for him? It was not of the Earth he wanted to hear tell;
it was of the Heaven above and of the Hell beneath. All crowns and
sovereignties whatsoever, where would _they_ in a few brief years be? To
be Sheik of Mecca or Arabia, and have a bit of gilt wood put into your
hand,--will that be one's salvation? I decidedly think, not. We will
leave it altogether, this impostor hypothesis, as not credible; not very
tolerable even, worthy chiefly of dismissal by us.

Mahomet had been wont to retire yearly, during the month Ramadhan, into
solitude and silence; as indeed was the Arab custom; a praiseworthy custom,
which such a man, above all, would find natural and useful. Communing with
his own heart, in the silence of the mountains; himself silent; open to the
"small still voices:" it was a right natural custom! Mahomet was in his
fortieth year, when having withdrawn to a cavern in Mount Hara, near Mecca,
during this Ramadhan, to pass the month in prayer, and meditation on those
great questions, he one day told his wife Kadijah, who with his household
was with him or near him this year, That by the unspeakable special favor
of Heaven he had now found it all out; was in doubt and darkness no longer,
but saw it all. That all these Idols and Formulas were nothing, miserable
bits of wood; that there was One God in and over all; and we must leave all
Idols, and look to Him. That God is great; and that there is nothing else
great! He is the Reality. Wooden Idols are not real; He is real. He made
us at first, sustains us yet; we and all things are but the shadow of Him;
a transitory garment veiling the Eternal Splendor. "_Allah akbar_, God is
great;"--and then also "_Islam_," That we must submit to God. That our
whole strength lies in resigned submission to Him, whatsoever He do to us.
For this world, and for the other! The thing He sends to us, were it death
and worse than death, shall be good, shall be best; we resign ourselves to
God.--"If this be _Islam_," says Goethe, "do we not all live in _Islam_?"
Yes, all of us that have any moral life; we all live so. It has ever been
held the highest wisdom for a man not merely to submit to
Necessity,--Necessity will make him submit,--but to know and believe well
that the stern thing which Necessity had ordered was the wisest, the best,
the thing wanted there. To cease his frantic pretension of scanning this
great God's-World in his small fraction of a brain; to know that it _had_
verily, though deep beyond his soundings, a Just Law, that the soul of it
was Good;--that his part in it was to conform to the Law of the Whole, and
in devout silence follow that; not questioning it, obeying it as

I say, this is yet the only true morality known. A man is right and
invincible, virtuous and on the road towards sure conquest, precisely while
he joins himself to the great deep Law of the World, in spite of all
superficial laws, temporary appearances, profit-and-loss calculations; he
is victorious while he co-operates with that great central Law, not
victorious otherwise:--and surely his first chance of co-operating with it,
or getting into the course of it, is to know with his whole soul that it
is; that it is good, and alone good! This is the soul of Islam; it is
properly the soul of Christianity;--for Islam is definable as a confused
form of Christianity; had Christianity not been, neither had it been.
Christianity also commands us, before all, to be resigned to God. We are
to take no counsel with flesh and blood; give ear to no vain cavils, vain
sorrows and wishes: to know that we know nothing; that the worst and
cruelest to our eyes is not what it seems; that we have to receive
whatsoever befalls us as sent from God above, and say, It is good and wise,
God is great! "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." Islam means
in its way Denial of Self, Annihilation of Self. This is yet the highest
Wisdom that Heaven has revealed to our Earth.

Such light had come, as it could, to illuminate the darkness of this wild
Arab soul. A confused dazzling splendor as of life and Heaven, in the
great darkness which threatened to be death: he called it revelation and
the angel Gabriel;--who of us yet can know what to call it? It is the
"inspiration of the Almighty" that giveth us understanding. To _know_; to
get into the truth of anything, is ever a mystic act,--of which the best
Logics can but babble on the surface. "Is not Belief the true
god-announcing Miracle?" says Novalis.--That Mahomet's whole soul, set in
flame with this grand Truth vouchsafed him, should feel as if it were
important and the only important thing, was very natural. That Providence
had unspeakably honored him by revealing it, saving him from death and
darkness; that he therefore was bound to make known the same to all
creatures: this is what was meant by "Mahomet is the Prophet of God;" this
too is not without its true meaning.--

The good Kadijah, we can fancy, listened to him with wonder, with doubt:
at length she answered: Yes, it was true this that he said. One can fancy
too the boundless gratitude of Mahomet; and how of all the kindnesses she
had done him, this of believing the earnest struggling word he now spoke
was the greatest. "It is certain," says Novalis, "my Conviction gains
infinitely, the moment another soul will believe in it." It is a boundless
favor.--He never forgot this good Kadijah. Long afterwards, Ayesha his
young favorite wife, a woman who indeed distinguished herself among the
Moslem, by all manner of qualities, through her whole long life; this young
brilliant Ayesha was, one day, questioning him: "Now am not I better than
Kadijah? She was a widow; old, and had lost her looks: you love me better
than you did her?"--" No, by Allah!" answered Mahomet: "No, by Allah! She
believed in me when none else would believe. In the whole world I had but
one friend, and she was that!"--Seid, his Slave, also believed in him;
these with his young Cousin Ali, Abu Thaleb's son, were his first converts.

He spoke of his Doctrine to this man and that; but the most treated it with
ridicule, with indifference; in three years, I think, he had gained but
thirteen followers. His progress was slow enough. His encouragement to go
on, was altogether the usual encouragement that such a man in such a case
meets. After some three years of small success, he invited forty of his
chief kindred to an entertainment; and there stood up and told them what
his pretension was: that he had this thing to promulgate abroad to all
men; that it was the highest thing, the one thing: which of them would
second him in that? Amid the doubt and silence of all, young Ali, as yet a
lad of sixteen, impatient of the silence, started up, and exclaimed in
passionate fierce language, That he would! The assembly, among whom was
Abu Thaleb, Ali's Father, could not be unfriendly to Mahomet; yet the sight
there, of one unlettered elderly man, with a lad of sixteen, deciding on
such an enterprise against all mankind, appeared ridiculous to them; the
assembly broke up in laughter. Nevertheless it proved not a laughable
thing; it was a very serious thing! As for this young Ali, one cannot but
like him. A noble-minded creature, as he shows himself, now and always
afterwards; full of affection, of fiery daring. Something chivalrous in
him; brave as a lion; yet with a grace, a truth and affection worthy of
Christian knighthood. He died by assassination in the Mosque at Bagdad; a
death occasioned by his own generous fairness, confidence in the fairness
of others: he said, If the wound proved not unto death, they must pardon
the Assassin; but if it did, then they must slay him straightway, that so
they two in the same hour might appear before God, and see which side of
that quarrel was the just one!

Mahomet naturally gave offence to the Koreish, Keepers of the Caabah,
superintendents of the Idols. One or two men of influence had joined him:
the thing spread slowly, but it was spreading. Naturally he gave offence
to everybody: Who is this that pretends to be wiser than we all; that
rebukes us all, as mere fools and worshippers of wood! Abu Thaleb the good
Uncle spoke with him: Could he not be silent about all that; believe it
all for himself, and not trouble others, anger the chief men, endanger
himself and them all, talking of it? Mahomet answered: If the Sun stood
on his right hand and the Moon on his left, ordering him to hold his peace,
he could not obey! No: there was something in this Truth he had got which
was of Nature herself; equal in rank to Sun, or Moon, or whatsoever thing
Nature had made. It would speak itself there, so long as the Almighty
allowed it, in spite of Sun and Moon, and all Koreish and all men and
things. It must do that, and could do no other. Mahomet answered so; and,
they say, "burst into tears." Burst into tears: he felt that Abu Thaleb
was good to him; that the task he had got was no soft, but a stern and
great one.

He went on speaking to who would listen to him; publishing his Doctrine
among the pilgrims as they came to Mecca; gaining adherents in this place
and that. Continual contradiction, hatred, open or secret danger attended
him. His powerful relations protected Mahomet himself; but by and by, on
his own advice, all his adherents had to quit Mecca, and seek refuge in
Abyssinia over the sea. The Koreish grew ever angrier; laid plots, and
swore oaths among them, to put Mahomet to death with their own hands. Abu
Thaleb was dead, the good Kadijah was dead. Mahomet is not solicitous of
sympathy from us; but his outlook at this time was one of the dismalest.
He had to hide in caverns, escape in disguise; fly hither and thither;
homeless, in continual peril of his life. More than once it seemed all
over with him; more than once it turned on a straw, some rider's horse
taking fright or the like, whether Mahomet and his Doctrine had not ended
there, and not been heard of at all. But it was not to end so.

In the thirteenth year of his mission, finding his enemies all banded
against him, forty sworn men, one out of every tribe, waiting to take his
life, and no continuance possible at Mecca for him any longer, Mahomet fled
to the place then called Yathreb, where he had gained some adherents; the
place they now call Medina, or "_Medinat al Nabi_, the City of the
Prophet," from that circumstance. It lay some two hundred miles off,
through rocks and deserts; not without great difficulty, in such mood as we
may fancy, he escaped thither, and found welcome. The whole East dates its
era from this Flight, _hegira_ as they name it: the Year 1 of this Hegira
is 622 of our Era, the fifty-third of Mahomet's life. He was now becoming
an old man; his friends sinking round him one by one; his path desolate,
encompassed with danger: unless he could find hope in his own heart, the
outward face of things was but hopeless for him. It is so with all men in
the like case. Hitherto Mahomet had professed to publish his Religion by
the way of preaching and persuasion alone. But now, driven foully out of
his native country, since unjust men had not only given no ear to his
earnest Heaven's-message, the deep cry of his heart, but would not even let
him live if he kept speaking it,--the wild Son of the Desert resolved to
defend himself, like a man and Arab. If the Koreish will have it so, they
shall have it. Tidings, felt to be of infinite moment to them and all men,
they would not listen to these; would trample them down by sheer violence,
steel and murder: well, let steel try it then! Ten years more this
Mahomet had; all of fighting of breathless impetuous toil and struggle;
with what result we know.

Much has been said of Mahomet's propagating his Religion by the sword. It
is no doubt far nobler what we have to boast of the Christian Religion,
that it propagated itself peaceably in the way of preaching and conviction.
Yet withal, if we take this for an argument of the truth or falsehood of a
religion, there is a radical mistake in it. The sword indeed: but where
will you get your sword! Every new opinion, at its starting, is precisely
in a _minority of one_. In one man's head alone, there it dwells as yet.
One man alone of the whole world believes it; there is one man against all
men. That _he_ take a sword, and try to propagate with that, will do
little for him. You must first get your sword! On the whole, a thing will
propagate itself as it can. We do not find, of the Christian Religion
either, that it always disdained the sword, when once it had got one.
Charlemagne's conversion of the Saxons was not by preaching. I care little
about the sword: I will allow a thing to struggle for itself in this
world, with any sword or tongue or implement it has, or can lay hold of.
We will let it preach, and pamphleteer, and fight, and to the uttermost
bestir itself, and do, beak and claws, whatsoever is in it; very sure that
it will, in the long-run, conquer nothing which does not deserve to be
conquered. What is better than itself, it cannot put away, but only what
is worse. In this great Duel, Nature herself is umpire, and can do no
wrong: the thing which is deepest-rooted in Nature, what we call _truest_,
that thing and not the other will be found growing at last.

Here however, in reference to much that there is in Mahomet and his
success, we are to remember what an umpire Nature is; what a greatness,
composure of depth and tolerance there is in her. You take wheat to cast
into the Earth's bosom; your wheat may be mixed with chaff, chopped straw,
barn-sweepings, dust and all imaginable rubbish; no matter: you cast it
into the kind just Earth; she grows the wheat,--the whole rubbish she
silently absorbs, shrouds _it_ in, says nothing of the rubbish. The yellow
wheat is growing there; the good Earth is silent about all the rest,--has
silently turned all the rest to some benefit too, and makes no complaint
about it! So everywhere in Nature! She is true and not a lie; and yet so
great, and just, and motherly in her truth. She requires of a thing only
that it _be_ genuine of heart; she will protect it if so; will not, if not
so. There is a soul of truth in all the things she ever gave harbor to.
Alas, is not this the history of all highest Truth that comes or ever came
into the world? The _body_ of them all is imperfection, an element of
light in darkness: to us they have to come embodied in mere Logic, in some
merely _scientific_ Theorem of the Universe; which _cannot_ be complete;
which cannot but be found, one day, incomplete, erroneous, and so die and
disappear. The body of all Truth dies; and yet in all, I say, there is a
soul which never dies; which in new and ever-nobler embodiment lives
immortal as man himself! It is the way with Nature. The genuine essence
of Truth never dies. That it be genuine, a voice from the great Deep of
Nature, there is the point at Nature's judgment-seat. What _we_ call pure
or impure, is not with her the final question. Not how much chaff is in
you; but whether you have any wheat. Pure? I might say to many a man:
Yes, you are pure; pure enough; but you are chaff,--insincere hypothesis,
hearsay, formality; you never were in contact with the great heart of the
Universe at all; you are properly neither pure nor impure; you _are_
nothing, Nature has no business with you.

Mahomet's Creed we called a kind of Christianity; and really, if we look at
the wild rapt earnestness with which it was believed and laid to heart, I
should say a better kind than that of those miserable Syrian Sects, with
their vain janglings about _Homoiousion_ and _Homoousion_, the head full of
worthless noise, the heart empty and dead! The truth of it is embedded in
portentous error and falsehood; but the truth of it makes it be believed,
not the falsehood: it succeeded by its truth. A bastard kind of
Christianity, but a living kind; with a heart-life in it; not dead,
chopping barren logic merely! Out of all that rubbish of Arab idolatries,
argumentative theologies, traditions, subtleties, rumors and hypotheses of
Greeks and Jews, with their idle wire-drawings, this wild man of the
Desert, with his wild sincere heart, earnest as death and life, with his
great flashing natural eyesight, had seen into the kernel of the matter.
Idolatry is nothing: these Wooden Idols of yours, "ye rub them with oil
and wax, and the flies stick on them,"--these are wood, I tell you! They
can do nothing for you; they are an impotent blasphemous presence; a horror
and abomination, if ye knew them. God alone is; God alone has power; He
made us, He can kill us and keep us alive: "_Allah akbar_, God is great."
Understand that His will is the best for you; that howsoever sore to flesh
and blood, you will find it the wisest, best: you are bound to take it so;
in this world and in the next, you have no other thing that you can do!

And now if the wild idolatrous men did believe this, and with their fiery
hearts lay hold of it to do it, in what form soever it came to them, I say
it was well worthy of being believed. In one form or the other, I say it
is still the one thing worthy of being believed by all men. Man does
hereby become the high-priest of this Temple of a World. He is in harmony
with the Decrees of the Author of this World; cooperating with them, not
vainly withstanding them: I know, to this day, no better definition of
Duty than that same. All that is _right_ includes itself in this of
co-operating with the real Tendency of the World: you succeed by this (the
World's Tendency will succeed), you are good, and in the right course
there. _Homoiousion_, _Homoousion_, vain logical jangle, then or before or
at any time, may jangle itself out, and go whither and how it likes: this
is the _thing_ it all struggles to mean, if it would mean anything. If it
do not succeed in meaning this, it means nothing. Not that Abstractions,
logical Propositions, be correctly worded or incorrectly; but that living
concrete Sons of Adam do lay this to heart: that is the important point.
Islam devoured all these vain jangling Sects; and I think had right to do
so. It was a Reality, direct from the great Heart of Nature once more.
Arab idolatries, Syrian formulas, whatsoever was not equally real, had to
go up in flame,--mere dead _fuel_, in various senses, for this which was

It was during these wild warfarings and strugglings, especially after the
Flight to Mecca, that Mahomet dictated at intervals his Sacred Book, which
they name _Koran_, or _Reading_, "Thing to be read." This is the Work he
and his disciples made so much of, asking all the world, Is not that a
miracle? The Mahometans regard their Koran with a reverence which few
Christians pay even to their Bible. It is admitted every where as the
standard of all law and all practice; the thing to be gone upon in
speculation and life; the message sent direct out of Heaven, which this
Earth has to conform to, and walk by; the thing to be read. Their Judges
decide by it; all Moslem are bound to study it, seek in it for the light of
their life. They have mosques where it is all read daily; thirty relays of
priests take it up in succession, get through the whole each day. There,
for twelve hundred years, has the voice of this Book, at all moments, kept
sounding through the ears and the hearts of so many men. We hear of
Mahometan Doctors that had read it seventy thousand times!

Very curious: if one sought for "discrepancies of national taste," here
surely were the most eminent instance of that! We also can read the Koran;
our Translation of it, by Sale, is known to be a very fair one. I must
say, it is as toilsome reading as I ever undertook. A wearisome confused
jumble, crude, incondite; endless iterations, long-windedness,
entanglement; most crude, incondite;--insupportable stupidity, in short!
Nothing but a sense of duty could carry any European through the Koran. We
read in it, as we might in the State-Paper Office, unreadable masses of
lumber, that perhaps we may get some glimpses of a remarkable man. It is
true we have it under disadvantages: the Arabs see more method in it than
we. Mahomet's followers found the Koran lying all in fractions, as it had
been written down at first promulgation; much of it, they say, on
shoulder-blades of mutton, flung pell-mell into a chest: and they
published it, without any discoverable order as to time or
otherwise;--merely trying, as would seem, and this not very strictly, to
put the longest chapters first. The real beginning of it, in that way,
lies almost at the end: for the earliest portions were the shortest. Read
in its historical sequence it perhaps would not be so bad. Much of it,
too, they say, is rhythmic; a kind of wild chanting song, in the original.
This may be a great point; much perhaps has been lost in the Translation
here. Yet with every allowance, one feels it difficult to see how any
mortal ever could consider this Koran as a Book written in Heaven, too good

for the Earth; as a well-written book, or indeed as a _book_ at all; and
not a bewildered rhapsody; _written_, so far as writing goes, as badly as
almost any book ever was! So much for national discrepancies, and the
standard of taste.

Yet I should say, it was not unintelligible how the Arabs might so love it.
When once you get this confused coil of a Koran fairly off your hands, and
have it behind you at a distance, the essential type of it begins to
disclose itself; and in this there is a merit quite other than the literary
one. If a book come from the heart, it will contrive to reach other
hearts; all art and author-craft are of small amount to that. One would
say the primary character of the Koran is this of its _genuineness_, of its
being a _bona-fide_ book. Prideaux, I know, and others have represented it
as a mere bundle of juggleries; chapter after chapter got up to excuse and
varnish the author's successive sins, forward his ambitions and quackeries:
but really it is time to dismiss all that. I do not assert Mahomet's
continual sincerity: who is continually sincere? But I confess I can make
nothing of the critic, in these times, who would accuse him of deceit
_prepense_; of conscious deceit generally, or perhaps at all;--still more,
of living in a mere element of conscious deceit, and writing this Koran as
a forger and juggler would have done! Every candid eye, I think, will read
the Koran far otherwise than so. It is the confused ferment of a great
rude human soul; rude, untutored, that cannot even read; but fervent,
earnest, struggling vehemently to utter itself in words. With a kind of
breathless intensity he strives to utter himself; the thoughts crowd on him
pell-mell: for very multitude of things to say, he can get nothing said.
The meaning that is in him shapes itself into no form of composition, is
stated in no sequence, method, or coherence;--they are not _shaped_ at all,
these thoughts of his; flung out unshaped, as they struggle and tumble
there, in their chaotic inarticulate state. We said "stupid:" yet natural
stupidity is by no means the character of Mahomet's Book; it is natural
uncultivation rather. The man has not studied speaking; in the haste and
pressure of continual fighting, has not time to mature himself into fit
speech. The panting breathless haste and vehemence of a man struggling in
the thick of battle for life and salvation; this is the mood he is in! A
headlong haste; for very magnitude of meaning, he cannot get himself
articulated into words. The successive utterances of a soul in that mood,
colored by the various vicissitudes of three-and-twenty years; now well
uttered, now worse: this is the Koran.

For we are to consider Mahomet, through these three-and-twenty years, as
the centre of a world wholly in conflict. Battles with the Koreish and
Heathen, quarrels among his own people, backslidings of his own wild heart;
all this kept him in a perpetual whirl, his soul knowing rest no more. In
wakeful nights, as one may fancy, the wild soul of the man, tossing amid
these vortices, would hail any light of a decision for them as a veritable
light from Heaven; _any_ making-up of his mind, so blessed, indispensable
for him there, would seem the inspiration of a Gabriel. Forger and
juggler? No, no! This great fiery heart, seething, simmering like a great
furnace of thoughts, was not a juggler's. His Life was a Fact to him; this
God's Universe an awful Fact and Reality. He has faults enough. The man
was an uncultured semi-barbarous Son of Nature, much of the Bedouin still
clinging to him: we must take him for that. But for a wretched
Simulacrum, a hungry Impostor without eyes or heart, practicing for a mess
of pottage such blasphemous swindlery, forgery of celestial documents,
continual high-treason against his Maker and Self, we will not and cannot
take him.

Sincerity, in all senses, seems to me the merit of the Koran; what had
rendered it precious to the wild Arab men. It is, after all, the first and
last merit in a book; gives rise to merits of all kinds,--nay, at bottom,
it alone can give rise to merit of any kind. Curiously, through these
incondite masses of tradition, vituperation, complaint, ejaculation in the
Koran, a vein of true direct insight, of what we might almost call poetry,
is found straggling. The body of the Book is made up of mere tradition,
and as it were vehement enthusiastic extempore preaching. He returns
forever to the old stories of the Prophets as they went current in the Arab
memory: how Prophet after Prophet, the Prophet Abraham, the Prophet Hud,
the Prophet Moses, Christian and other real and fabulous Prophets, had come
to this Tribe and to that, warning men of their sin; and been received by
them even as he Mahomet was,--which is a great solace to him. These things
he repeats ten, perhaps twenty times; again and ever again, with wearisome
iteration; has never done repeating them. A brave Samuel Johnson, in his
forlorn garret, might con over the Biographies of Authors in that way!
This is the great staple of the Koran. But curiously, through all this,
comes ever and anon some glance as of the real thinker and seer. He has
actually an eye for the world, this Mahomet: with a certain directness and
rugged vigor, he brings home still, to our heart, the thing his own heart
has been opened to. I make but little of his praises of Allah, which many
praise; they are borrowed I suppose mainly from the Hebrew, at least they
are far surpassed there. But the eye that flashes direct into the heart of
things, and _sees_ the truth of them; this is to me a highly interesting
object. Great Nature's own gift; which she bestows on all; but which only
one in the thousand does not cast sorrowfully away: it is what I call
sincerity of vision; the test of a sincere heart.

Mahomet can work no miracles; he often answers impatiently: I can work no
miracles. I? "I am a Public Preacher;" appointed to preach this doctrine
to all creatures. Yet the world, as we can see, had really from of old
been all one great miracle to him. Look over the world, says he; is it not
wonderful, the work of Allah; wholly "a sign to you," if your eyes were
open! This Earth, God made it for you; "appointed paths in it;" you can
live in it, go to and fro on it.--The clouds in the dry country of Arabia,
to Mahomet they are very wonderful: Great clouds, he says, born in the
deep bosom of the Upper Immensity, where do they come from! They hang
there, the great black monsters; pour down their rain-deluges "to revive a
dead earth," and grass springs, and "tall leafy palm-trees with their
date-clusters hanging round. Is not that a sign?" Your cattle too,--Allah
made them; serviceable dumb creatures; they change the grass into milk; you
have your clothing from them, very strange creatures; they come ranking
home at evening-time, "and," adds he, "and are a credit to you!" Ships
also,--he talks often about ships: Huge moving mountains, they spread out
their cloth wings, go bounding through the water there, Heaven's wind
driving them; anon they lie motionless, God has withdrawn the wind, they
lie dead, and cannot stir! Miracles? cries he: What miracle would you
have? Are not you yourselves there? God made you, "shaped you out of a
little clay." Ye were small once; a few years ago ye were not at all. Ye
have beauty, strength, thoughts, "ye have compassion on one another." Old
age comes on you, and gray hairs; your strength fades into feebleness; ye
sink down, and again are not. "Ye have compassion on one another:" this
struck me much: Allah might have made you having no compassion on one
another,--how had it been then! This is a great direct thought, a glance
at first-hand into the very fact of things. Rude vestiges of poetic
genius, of whatsoever is best and truest, are visible in this man. A
strong untutored intellect; eyesight, heart: a strong wild man,--might
have shaped himself into Poet, King, Priest, any kind of Hero.

To his eyes it is forever clear that this world wholly is miraculous. He
sees what, as we said once before, all great thinkers, the rude
Scandinavians themselves, in one way or other, have contrived to see: That
this so solid-looking material world is, at bottom, in very deed, Nothing;
is a visual and factual Manifestation of God's power and presence,--a
shadow hung out by Him on the bosom of the void Infinite; nothing more.
The mountains, he says, these great rock-mountains, they shall dissipate
themselves "like clouds;" melt into the Blue as clouds do, and not be! He
figures the Earth, in the Arab fashion, Sale tells us, as an immense Plain
or flat Plate of ground, the mountains are set on that to _steady_ it. At
the Last Day they shall disappear "like clouds;" the whole Earth shall go
spinning, whirl itself off into wreck, and as dust and vapor vanish in the
Inane. Allah withdraws his hand from it, and it ceases to be. The
universal empire of Allah, presence everywhere of an unspeakable Power, a
Splendor, and a Terror not to be named, as the true force, essence and
reality, in all things whatsoever, was continually clear to this man. What
a modern talks of by the name, Forces of Nature, Laws of Nature; and does
not figure as a divine thing; not even as one thing at all, but as a set of
things, undivine enough,--salable, curious, good for propelling steamships!
With our Sciences and Cyclopaedias, we are apt to forget the _divineness_,
in those laboratories of ours. We ought not to forget it! That once well
forgotten, I know not what else were worth remembering. Most sciences, I
think were then a very dead thing; withered, contentious, empty;--a thistle
in late autumn. The best science, without this, is but as the dead
_timber_; it is not the growing tree and forest,--which gives ever-new
timber, among other things! Man cannot _know_ either, unless he can
_worship_ in some way. His knowledge is a pedantry, and dead thistle,

Much has been said and written about the sensuality of Mahomet's Religion;
more than was just. The indulgences, criminal to us, which he permitted,
were not of his appointment; he found them practiced, unquestioned from
immemorial time in Arabia; what he did was to curtail them, restrict them,
not on one but on many sides. His Religion is not an easy one: with
rigorous fasts, lavations, strict complex formulas, prayers five times a
day, and abstinence from wine, it did not "succeed by being an easy
religion." As if indeed any religion, or cause holding of religion, could
succeed by that! It is a calumny on men to say that they are roused to
heroic action by ease, hope of pleasure, recompense,--sugar-plums of any
kind, in this world or the next! In the meanest mortal there lies
something nobler. The poor swearing soldier, hired to be shot, has his
"honor of a soldier," different from drill-regulations and the shilling a
day. It is not to taste sweet things, but to do noble and true things, and
vindicate himself under God's Heaven as a god-made Man, that the poorest
son of Adam dimly longs. Show him the way of doing that, the dullest
day-drudge kindles into a hero. They wrong man greatly who say he is to be
seduced by ease. Difficulty, abnegation, martyrdom, death are the
_allurements_ that act on the heart of man. Kindle the inner genial life
of him, you have a flame that burns up all lower considerations. Not
happiness, but something higher: one sees this even in the frivolous
classes, with their "point of honor" and the like. Not by flattering our
appetites; no, by awakening the Heroic that slumbers in every heart, can
any Religion gain followers.

Mahomet himself, after all that can be said about him, was not a sensual
man. We shall err widely if we consider this man as a common voluptuary,
intent mainly on base enjoyments,--nay on enjoyments of any kind. His
household was of the frugalest; his common diet barley-bread and water:
sometimes for months there was not a fire once lighted on his hearth. They
record with just pride that he would mend his own shoes, patch his own
cloak. A poor, hard-toiling, ill-provided man; careless of what vulgar men
toil for. Not a bad man, I should say; something better in him than
_hunger_ of any sort,--or these wild Arab men, fighting and jostling
three-and-twenty years at his hand, in close contact with him always, would
not have reverenced him so! They were wild men, bursting ever and anon
into quarrel, into all kinds of fierce sincerity; without right worth and
manhood, no man could have commanded them. They called him Prophet, you
say? Why, he stood there face to face with them; bare, not enshrined in
any mystery; visibly clouting his own cloak, cobbling his own shoes;
fighting, counselling, ordering in the midst of them: they must have seen
what kind of a man he _was_, let him be _called_ what you like! No emperor
with his tiaras was obeyed as this man in a cloak of his own clouting.
During three-and-twenty years of rough actual trial. I find something of a
veritable Hero necessary for that, of itself.

His last words are a prayer; broken ejaculations of a heart struggling up,
in trembling hope, towards its Maker. We cannot say that his religion made
him _worse_; it made him better; good, not bad. Generous things are
recorded of him: when he lost his Daughter, the thing he answers is, in
his own dialect, every way sincere, and yet equivalent to that of
Christians, "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name
of the Lord." He answered in like manner of Seid, his emancipated
well-beloved Slave, the second of the believers. Seid had fallen in the
War of Tabuc, the first of Mahomet's fightings with the Greeks. Mahomet
said, It was well; Seid had done his Master's work, Seid had now gone to
his Master: it was all well with Seid. Yet Seid's daughter found him
weeping over the body;--the old gray-haired man melting in tears! "What do
I see?" said she.--"You see a friend weeping over his friend."--He went out
for the last time into the mosque, two days before his death; asked, If he
had injured any man? Let his own back bear the stripes. If he owed any
man? A voice answered, "Yes, me three drachms," borrowed on such an
occasion. Mahomet ordered them to be paid: "Better be in shame now," said

he, "than at the Day of Judgment."--You remember Kadijah, and the "No, by
Allah!" Traits of that kind show us the genuine man, the brother of us
all, brought visible through twelve centuries,--the veritable Son of our
common Mother.

Withal I like Mahomet for his total freedom from cant. He is a rough
self-helping son of the wilderness; does not pretend to be what he is not.
There is no ostentatious pride in him; but neither does he go much upon
humility: he is there as he can be, in cloak and shoes of his own
clouting; speaks plainly to all manner of Persian Kings, Greek Emperors,
what it is they are bound to do; knows well enough, about himself, "the
respect due unto thee." In a life-and-death war with Bedouins, cruel
things could not fail; but neither are acts of mercy, of noble natural pity
and generosity wanting. Mahomet makes no apology for the one, no boast of
the other. They were each the free dictate of his heart; each called for,
there and then. Not a mealy-mouthed man! A candid ferocity, if the case
call for it, is in him; he does not mince matters! The War of Tabuc is a
thing he often speaks of: his men refused, many of them, to march on that
occasion; pleaded the heat of the weather, the harvest, and so forth; he
can never forget that. Your harvest? It lasts for a day. What will
become of your harvest through all Eternity? Hot weather? Yes, it was
hot; "but Hell will be hotter!" Sometimes a rough sarcasm turns up: He
says to the unbelievers, Ye shall have the just measure of your deeds at
that Great Day. They will be weighed out to you; ye shall not have short
weight!--Everywhere he fixes the matter in his eye; he _sees_ it: his
heart, now and then, is as if struck dumb by the greatness of it.
"Assuredly," he says: that word, in the Koran, is written down sometimes
as a sentence by itself: "Assuredly."

No _Dilettantism_ in this Mahomet; it is a business of Reprobation and
Salvation with him, of Time and Eternity: he is in deadly earnest about
it! Dilettantism, hypothesis, speculation, a kind of amateur-search for
Truth, toying and coquetting with Truth: this is the sorest sin. The root
of all other imaginable sins. It consists in the heart and soul of the man
never having been _open_ to Truth;--"living in a vain show." Such a man
not only utters and produces falsehoods, but is himself a falsehood. The
rational moral principle, spark of the Divinity, is sunk deep in him, in
quiet paralysis of life-death. The very falsehoods of Mahomet are truer
than the truths of such a man. He is the insincere man: smooth-polished,
respectable in some times and places; inoffensive, says nothing harsh to
anybody; most _cleanly_,--just as carbonic acid is, which is death and

We will not praise Mahomet's moral precepts as always of the superfinest
sort; yet it can be said that there is always a tendency to good in them;
that they are the true dictates of a heart aiming towards what is just and
true. The sublime forgiveness of Christianity, turning of the other cheek
when the one has been smitten, is not here: you _are_ to revenge yourself,
but it is to be in measure, not overmuch, or beyond justice. On the other
hand, Islam, like any great Faith, and insight into the essence of man, is
a perfect equalizer of men: the soul of one believer outweighs all earthly
kingships; all men, according to Islam too, are equal. Mahomet insists not
on the propriety of giving alms, but on the necessity of it: he marks down
by law how much you are to give, and it is at your peril if you neglect.
The tenth part of a man's annual income, whatever that may be, is the
_property_ of the poor, of those that are afflicted and need help. Good
all this: the natural voice of humanity, of pity and equity dwelling in
the heart of this wild Son of Nature speaks _so_.

Mahomet's Paradise is sensual, his Hell sensual: true; in the one and the
other there is enough that shocks all spiritual feeling in us. But we are
to recollect that the Arabs already had it so; that Mahomet, in whatever he
changed of it, softened and diminished all this. The worst sensualities,
too, are the work of doctors, followers of his, not his work. In the Koran
there is really very little said about the joys of Paradise; they are
intimated rather than insisted on. Nor is it forgotten that the highest
joys even there shall be spiritual; the pure Presence of the Highest, this
shall infinitely transcend all other joys. He says, "Your salutation shall
be, Peace." _Salam_, Have Peace!--the thing that all rational souls long
for, and seek, vainly here below, as the one blessing. "Ye shall sit on
seats, facing one another: all grudges shall be taken away out of your
hearts." All grudges! Ye shall love one another freely; for each of you,
in the eyes of his brothers, there will be Heaven enough!

In reference to this of the sensual Paradise and Mahomet's sensuality, the
sorest chapter of all for us, there were many things to be said; which it
is not convenient to enter upon here. Two remarks only I shall make, and
therewith leave it to your candor. The first is furnished me by Goethe; it
is a casual hint of his which seems well worth taking note of. In one of
his Delineations, in _Meister's Travels_ it is, the hero comes upon a
Society of men with very strange ways, one of which was this: "We
require," says the Master, "that each of our people shall restrict himself
in one direction," shall go right against his desire in one matter, and
_make_ himself do the thing he does not wish, "should we allow him the
greater latitude on all other sides." There seems to me a great justness
in this. Enjoying things which are pleasant; that is not the evil: it is
the reducing of our moral self to slavery by them that is. Let a man
assert withal that he is king over his habitudes; that he could and would
shake them off, on cause shown: this is an excellent law. The Month
Ramadhan for the Moslem, much in Mahomet's Religion, much in his own Life,
bears in that direction; if not by forethought, or clear purpose of moral
improvement on his part, then by a certain healthy manful instinct, which
is as good.

But there is another thing to be said about the Mahometan Heaven and Hell.
This namely, that, however gross and material they may be, they are an
emblem of an everlasting truth, not always so well remembered elsewhere.
That gross sensual Paradise of his; that horrible flaming Hell; the great
enormous Day of Judgment he perpetually insists on: what is all this but a
rude shadow, in the rude Bedouin imagination, of that grand spiritual Fact,
and Beginning of Facts, which it is ill for us too if we do not all know
and feel: the Infinite Nature of Duty? That man's actions here are of
_infinite_ moment to him, and never die or end at all; that man, with his
little life, reaches upwards high as Heaven, downwards low as Hell, and in
his threescore years of Time holds an Eternity fearfully and wonderfully
hidden: all this had burnt itself, as in flame-characters, into the wild
Arab soul. As in flame and lightning, it stands written there; awful,
unspeakable, ever present to him. With bursting earnestness, with a fierce
savage sincerity, half-articulating, not able to articulate, he strives to
speak it, bodies it forth in that Heaven and that Hell. Bodied forth in
what way you will, it is the first of all truths. It is venerable under
all embodiments. What is the chief end of man here below? Mahomet has
answered this question, in a way that might put some of us to shame! He
does not, like a Bentham, a Paley, take Right and Wrong, and calculate the
profit and loss, ultimate pleasure of the one and of the other; and summing
all up by addition and subtraction into a net result, ask you, Whether on
the whole the Right does not preponderate considerably? No; it is not
_better_ to do the one than the other; the one is to the other as life is
to death,--as Heaven is to Hell. The one must in nowise be done, the other
in nowise left undone. You shall not measure them; they are
incommensurable: the one is death eternal to a man, the other is life
eternal. Benthamee Utility, virtue by Profit and Loss; reducing this
God's-world to a dead brute Steam-engine, the infinite celestial Soul of
Man to a kind of Hay-balance for weighing hay and thistles on, pleasures
and pains on:--If you ask me which gives, Mahomet or they, the beggarlier
and falser view of Man and his Destinies in this Universe, I will answer,
it is not Mahomet!--

On the whole, we will repeat that this Religion of Mahomet's is a kind of
Christianity; has a genuine element of what is spiritually highest looking
through it, not to be hidden by all its imperfections. The Scandinavian
God _Wish_, the god of all rude men,--this has been enlarged into a Heaven
by Mahomet; but a Heaven symbolical of sacred Duty, and to be earned by
faith and well-doing, by valiant action, and a divine patience which is
still more valiant. It is Scandinavian Paganism, and a truly celestial
element superadded to that. Call it not false; look not at the falsehood
of it, look at the truth of it. For these twelve centuries, it has been
the religion and life-guidance of the fifth part of the whole kindred of
Mankind. Above all things, it has been a religion heartily _believed_.
These Arabs believe their religion, and try to live by it! No Christians,
since the early ages, or only perhaps the English Puritans in modern times,
have ever stood by their Faith as the Moslem do by theirs,--believing it
wholly, fronting Time with it, and Eternity with it. This night the
watchman on the streets of Cairo when he cries, "Who goes? " will hear from
the passenger, along with his answer, "There is no God but God." _Allah
akbar_, _Islam_, sounds through the souls, and whole daily existence, of
these dusky millions. Zealous missionaries preach it abroad among Malays,
black Papuans, brutal Idolaters;--displacing what is worse, nothing that is
better or good.

To the Arab Nation it was as a birth from darkness into light; Arabia first
became alive by means of it. A poor shepherd people, roaming unnoticed in
its deserts since the creation of the world: a Hero-Prophet was sent down
to them with a word they could believe: see, the unnoticed becomes
world-notable, the small has grown world-great; within one century
afterwards, Arabia is at Grenada on this hand, at Delhi on that;--glancing
in valor and splendor and the light of genius, Arabia shines through long
ages over a great section of the world. Belief is great, life-giving. The
history of a Nation becomes fruitful, soul-elevating, great, so soon as it
believes. These Arabs, the man Mahomet, and that one century,--is it not
as if a spark had fallen, one spark, on a world of what seemed black
unnoticeable sand; but lo, the sand proves explosive powder, blazes
heaven-high from Delhi to Grenada! I said, the Great Man was always as
lightning out of Heaven; the rest of men waited for him like fuel, and then
they too would flame.

Thomas Carlyle

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