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?We are informed by historians, that many famous cities, distin
guished above others for literature and commerce, contended which of them should have the honor of being the birthplace of Homer. He was the prince and father of poets, and has acquired the just admiration and astonishment of the world. Such a contest was, therefore, commendablé, as it evinced the high opinion which men at that period had of unexampled merit. But when the character of Mohammed is attentively surveyed, whether delineated by friends or enemies, the picture is so shocking, that it is a wonder the place of his nativity has not been buried in oblivion. Any country might blush to have produced such a monster. So great, however, has the veneration of the Arabians for this arch deceiver always been, that they have not left it problematical where he first drew his breath. Everything concerning him was deemed of too much importance not to be made public, when even his remarks in the course of conversation, were considered as oracles. He was born at Mecca, a city of Arabia, famous for nothing so much as for the pilgrimages made to it, both before and after the estab''shment of his religion, if it be not a prostitution of the word to give it such a name. He was descended from a tribe called the Korashites, said to be the most considerable in point of influence and wealth, the two great idols of human ambition. The origin of this tribe was one Pher Koraish, who had no doubt acquired his importance by rapine and plunder, which appears to have been the chief trade of that unhappy country. This being the true descent of Mohammed according to the testimony of the most reputed authors, he was not a man of that obscure, mean, and despicable origin which many have asserted. Those who read little and think less, are ever apt to be led away by those accounts of a person they dislike, which they imagine will degrade him in the estimation of the world. This has often been the unjustifiable conduct of too many Christians, forgetting that it would not have diminished the sterling worth of Mohammed, had he been possessed of any, though he had been brought forth by a beggar, at the root of a hedge; nor will it ever detract from that just infamy which he has brought upon himself in the eye of true discernment, that
circumstances of a man's birth being wholly independent of himself, make no part of the value or insignificance of his character. But as to Mohammed, it is not true that his parentage was mean and obscure. It is indeed a popular blunder, which passes with the ignorant as a matter of fact, and which Paine has adopted in his “Age of Reason," owing to the circumscribed nature of his education. “Moses,” says he, “ was a foundling, Jesus Christ was born in a stable, and Mohammed was a mule-driver.” The design of this sentence is too obvious to require a comment; for at any time he would barter his reputation ; — we had almost said, his soul, for a stroke at Christianity. But to proceed with our narrative:
Mohammed's father died when he was only two years of age, which involved his mother Amena and himself in poverty and distress. All the wealth of which his father was possessed devolved to his uncles; the principal share of which became the property of Abu Taleb, that uncle who supported him so powerfully in the propagating of his imposture, and preserved him on many occasions from being cut off by his enemies. Six years after the death of his father, his mother died also, and thus he became an almost destitute orphan at an early period of life. His grandfather, indeed, whose name was Abd? almotalleb, took him home to his house; but to enjoy the benefit of his generosity only a short time, for Abd'almotalieb died the following year. Then Abu Taleb, his uncle, took him under his protection, and in the language of Oriental historians, maintained him out of charity. With Abu Taleb he lived sixteen years, being trained up by him to the employment of a merchant, the chief source of wealth among the great men of that country. They traded to Syria, Persia, and Egypt, carrying thither such articles of commerce as they received from India, Ethiopia, and other southern regions of the globe. Mohammed served his uncle with fidelity and advantage, and he left him of his own accord.
At this period, being now twenty-five years of age, a circumstance happened in Mecca, peculiarly favorable to the advancement of his projected scheme. A merchant of considerable wealth and influence dying in the city, his widow, to whom he left the whole of his possessions and stock in trade, resolved to carry on the traffic of her husband, by which he had acquired his eminence. But being destitute of a person properly qualified for an agent or she made him such eligible and inviting offers, as he did not deem it prudent to reject. Being taken into her service in the above capacity, he discharged the duties of his office to her entire satisfaction for the space of three years, travelling with her goods into Syria, Persia, and Egypt, and bringing back such advantageous returns as did not fail to please. In the course of his mercantile travels, he became acquainted both with Jews and Christians, whose religious opinions he would examine with as much attention as privacy would allow, or opportunity afford. He found both parties, wherever he went, miserably divided among themselves, which he no doubt considered as a favorable symptom, and a powerful encouragement to expect their speedy acceptance of the imposture which he was soon to make public. When religious controversy rises to such a height as to extinguish every spark of love, confidence, and respect, and kindle a spirit of jealousy and persecution, men are almost prepared for the reception of any. thing, however absurd, if it promises a removal of their present calamities. The want of unanimity has been the destruction of all communities, civil and religious, in every age of the world. Mohammed understood this; and it will appear, from the subsequent history of his life, that he made his own use of it. His countrymen also were devoted to the belief of those tenets which were known by the name of Zendicism, haying a strong resemblance to the opinions of the Sadducees among the Jews, for they denied a providence, the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection from the dead. This being almost equivalent to atheism, or no religion whatever, they were in a state very favorable to his designs, and the more easily wrought upon by his artifice and cunning. Like a piece of clean paper, they were ready to receive the first impressions that offered, and those made by Mohammed had the desired effect; for nothing almost was proof against his insinuations and address.
factor to foreign countries, she applied to Mohammed. Whether • she knew him to be fit for this office, or depended on the attesta
tions of such as were well acquainted with him, is not certain, but
He was now twenty-eight years of age, enjoying the advantages of a good exterior figure, as all historians allow, which being united to that winning mode of address he so eminently inherited from nature, and which he could, no doubt, successfully employ in the management of love affairs, as well as of delusion; he gained an entire victory over the widow's heart. Khadijah, for that was her name, could no longer resist the artillery of Mohammed's accomplishments, but gave him her heart and her hand, in the fortieth year of her age. Had not the Impostor's ambitious views been to him instead of everything else, it is not probable that he would have married a woman twelve years older than himself; but her extensive fortune opened to him the delightful prospect of reaching the completion of his fondest wishes. We draw this inference from the practice afterwards adopted by him, always selecting such women as were younger than himself. He was espoused to his beloved Ayesha, when she was only six years of age, and the marriage was consummated when she was no more than eight. As females in most parts of the globe within the torrid zone arrive at womanhood at the age of nine or ten, a woman of forty in Arabia must be as constitutionally old as one of sixty in Britain. Nor is it likely that Khadijah would have married ber servant had not he been possessed of a something which is always captivating in the eyes of those females who pay little respect to the more sublime accomplishments of the mind, and more especially if he had not been much younger than herself.
Mohammed's ambitious views being thus highly gratified, and his extensive influence, arising from the fortune which this union brought him, conspiring to favor his design, he began seriously to think of the most proper method of divulging his imposture. It cannot be determined whether he considered himself as injured by the revolution which took place in his affairs upon the death of his father; but certain it is, that he made every action of his life subservient to the obtaining the sovereign authority over the city of Mecca, which his ancestors had so long enjoyed. But as he rightly judged that his well-known profligacy and wickedness would form insurmountable barriers in the way of his success, he resolved to lead a life of seeming sanctity and actual retirement for the space of two years. He could not be ignorant that the venerable and interesting title of Apostle of God, or messenger from heaven, was totally incompatible with a licentious course. Voluptuous and depraved as his countrymen were, the shrewdness and sagacity which they possessed in a considerable degree could not fail to dictate to them the incongruity between his wonted mode of living and a claim to inspiration. About the age of thirty-eight, he took up his almost daily residence in a solitary cave, nigh to the city of Mecca, where he pretended to be favored with visions from the Almighty. When he returned home at night, he endeavored to persuade his wife of the truth of those wonderful relations, but it seems her incredulity was at first too great to be shaken by such assertions. She could not consider them in any other light than as the result of a disposition to play the wag; but when he persisted with the utmost solemnity to vouch for their truth, she concluded him to be deranged. He next told her, that in the forementioned cave, sacred to the communication of important discoveries from on high, he had repeated conferences with the angel Gabriel, employed by Jehovah to bring him down the Koran, which was to contain the religious system of doctrines, and precepts that heaven designed for his countrymen. But here again he met with his wonted opposition, for his unbelieving spouse was determined to give credit, neither to the · one nor the other. She treated both as the production of a distempered brain, not apprehending the abominable purpose for which they were fabricated.
At this time there was a monk residing in his house, who being