« PreviousContinue »
not sufficiently cultivated in this country, which are not sufficiently familiar to the ordinary reader, and rarely form, a topic of conversation in the companies of well-educated persons, the history of Muhammedanism is undoubtedly one. This is deeply to be regretted; for though it is certainly more agreeable to read the history of a people whose stage of çivilization, whose religion, politics, and manners most nearly resemble our own, and though it may be, all things considered, more instructive too, yet much information of the most valuable kind is to be derived froin making ourselves familiar with people who are different from ourselves. It helps to deliver us from a blind, obstinate adherence to that, whether right or wrong, to which we ourselves have been accustomed, and on which our habits have been formed, whether in the field of thought, or the field of action. This blind and obstinate adherence, is one of the circumstances which most remarkably characterize the savage; and is found of less and less power and predominance, as a principle of action, exactly in proportion as men recede further and further from the savage condition of life. The savage believes that nothing whatsoever is good, either in thought or in action, but that which he him... self has been accustomed to think and to do; he treats the thoughts and actions of all other men with contempt, and regards the very idea of a change with supreme detestation.. The barbarian, the rude and uncivilized inhabitant of every clime, approaches, in this respect, to the prejudices of the savage. Even in the most cultivated ages and nations, the minds of those who are but little enlightened, the minds which remain contracted for want of ideas, the minds which remain stiff for want of exercise, the minds which are afraid to judge, for want of practice in judging, retain a great degree of the propensity of the savage; they take the habits, which they themselves have formed, as the laws, not of a second nature,' but of the first nature; pot of a factitious nature grafted upon the first by the operation of circumstances, but the original vature which they brought with them into the world, wbich is common to them with all the rest of their species, and which they cannot change. The men of this sort, who are very numerous even in our own age and nation, are in general the enemies of all improvement, and cruelly and fatally resist the progress of mind. All imperfections are, in their eyes, converted into perfections, provided they exist; or at any rate, provided they have bad a long existence,
The state of mind from which these unhappy consequences are derived, receives the most salutary impressions from contemplating systems of ideas, manners and institutions, different from those on which it has itself been formed. These salutary
impressions are made, not only when the mind contemplates systems of ideas, manners, and institutions superior, but also when it contemplates systems inferior to those by which its own habits have been determined. The immediate consequence of familiarizing the nind with other states of human nature than one's own, is so far to draw a line of distinction between what is essential to that nature and what is accidental to it. Comparisons are formed ; and in order to form comparisons between the modes of thinking and acting in other countries, and those in one's own country, consequences must be traced. When consequences are duly traced, useful information is always gained. When it is found that the institutions existing in one's own country, or the ideas and practices which prevail in it, produce consequences of one sort, the institutions, ideas, and practices, of another country, produce consequences of another sort, the points on which good consequences depend, are gradually distinguished from the points which are indifferent, or which are productive of evil. And when the line of distinction between these different points is fully and accurately drawn, every kind of right conclusion, both speculative and practical, springs up easily, and becomes vigorous in the human mind.
That the history of Muhammedanism, with that of other systems, different from our own, rendered familiar to the minds of the people of this country, would contribute largely to the production of these desirable effects, we cannot bave a shadow of doubt. We therefore conceive that the design of the present work is worthy of peculiar approbation. The Author proposes to give a popular, and therefore a succinct account, both of what Muhammedanism is in itself, considered as a religious, moral and political system, and also of the historical facts with which it has been attended, the circumstances in which it originated; the mode in which it was propagated, the extent to which it was carried, and the effects which it produced. We shall now endeavour to present a short account of the manner in which he has executed his task.
First of all, he presents to us a narrative of the principal incidents in the life of the Arabian pseudo-Prophet. On the foundation which was laid by him, arose a mighty empire. For a certain period of time, this empire stood united, and its magnitude and power continually increased. Of this period our Author treats, under the title of “ The undivided Cali“ pbate, or the history of the rise of the Saracenian empire." After a time, this empire broke into several parts. 'Of this the writer treats, under the title of “ The divided Caliphate, or " the history of the Decline and Fall of the Saracenian em• pire.” Having advanced thus far in the statement of facts, the Author proceeds to one of the important inquiries which are connected with these facts, and presents us a" Disser4 tation on the causes of the success of the Muhammedan arms 6 and religion." Beside those empires which sustained the sceptre of the actual descendants of the Propbet, there were other empires which in process of time accepted or endured the religion and laws of Muhammed, while they remained subject to princes of a different race. These Mr. Mills exbibits under the title of “ 'The History of the Muhammedan" Tartarian empires."' So much for the account of the facts which attended the origin and progress of Muhammedanism. The Author next proceeds to place before us a delineation of what Mubammedanism is in itself. Of this he treats under two titles ; first, « The Koran; or, the Theological, Moral, and Juridical Code of the Muselmans.--Muhammedan Sects ;" and secondly, “ The Literature and Science of the Saracens “ and Turks.” He closes the work with an account of ". The present State and Extent of the Muhammedan re:
It will be allowed, that all this comprehends a very complete view of the subject; and that, were this outline filled up, little would be wanting to a perfect knowledge of this important branch of the history of human nature, and of the human race. It must also be allowed, that the matter is by no means unskilfully distributed. That part of the information relative to this subject, which the mind first requires, is no doubt an account of the rise and progress of the system ; because it is chiefly a knowledge of the extent to whichi it bas pervaded the earth, and to which it has influenced, or now influences, the condition of human beings, that can excite a curiosity to know what it is. It is, of course, after a knowledge that it has extended very widely, that any inquiry.can arise respecting the cause of that extension. Of the order into which Mr. Mills has disposed the matter of his work, the only part about the goodness of which there can be any doubt, is the concluding chapter, the account of the present state and extent of the Mubammedan "religion. The subject of this chapter, it may be said, is purely historical, and therefore it ought to bave been arranged with the historical matter; that we ought not, as at present, to have received, first, bistorical matter, then, speculative matter, and next, historical matter again; but all the historical matter in the first place, and all the speculative matter in the second. It may, however, on the other side, be alleged, that the account of the present extent of the Mubamwedan religion, is information rather statistical than historical; and is not improperly disjoined from the detail of the chronological facts which relate to the establishment of Muhammedanism and of the empire of the Caliphs on the surface of
storicistorical mattehistorical matters but al
the globe ; that if it had been historical matter in a sense ever so pure, it would not follow that an arrangement was bad, which gave one part of it before the speculative elucidation, another part of it after ; because the first part might be necessary to the elucidation of the speculative matter, and the speculative matter might be necessary to the elucidation of the last, in which case, instead of preserving a verbal uniformity at the expense of substantial advantage, substantial adyantage would be cultivated, as it always ought to be, at the expense of the verbal or technical formality.
In the present case, however, the speculative matter was of no use for the statement of that which is made to come after it; and that wbich was made to come after it, though not strictly historical matter, might with some propriety have been so disposed as to leave the whole of the speculative to come at the end. There would have been more of simplicity, more of the appearance of a regular structure, more of logical precision, under that arrangement, than under the one which has been actually employed.
A few details will shew the manner in which our Author fills up, under the several heads, the outline which we have thus despatched.
I. In the life of Muhammed, after a description of the land of his birth and exploits, and after an account of the previous state of the inhabitants, their religion, their politics, and government, we have an account of the incidents which precided the time of his declaring himself a prophet, the family of Muhammed, his birth, early youth, and marriage with Kadijah. It is at this part, also, that the Author gives us, in a pote, an account of the various written lives of Muhammed. As the account is pretty complete, and may be highly useful to those who would enter upon the exploration of this interesting field, we are induced to transcribe it.
• Gagnier, vie de Mahomet, traduite et compilée de l'Alcoran; des traditions authentiques de la Sonna et des meilleurs auteurs Arabes. Amsterdam, 2 tom. 8vo. introd. part 2. et livre 1. chap. 1. All the Arabian and Persian MSS. on the history of the Saracens, contain accounts of Muhammed. None of them are of great antiquity. The industry of D'Herbelot discovered and used the Saracenian histories by Novari and Mircond, writers of the eighth and ninth centuries of the Hegira. These books formed the basis of the article Muhammed in the Bibliothèque Orientale. The best Life in Arabic of Muhammed that has yet been discovered, is by Abulfeda, a contemporary writer with Novari, and who was an Emir at Hamah in Syria. Abulfeda is a judicious and candid writer; his work bears internal testimony of truth. Pocock (from whom it is not often safe to differ) gives himn unqualified praise-See Pocock's Preface to his translation of Abul-Pharajius. About the commence
ment of the last century, Abulfeda was translated into Latin, and illustrated by valuable notes, by John Gagnier, the Arabic professor at Oxford ; a Frenchman by birth, of a Calvinistic family. See Dic. Hist. Lyons, 1804. Gagnier also published a Life of Muhammed, the basis of which was a book by Al-Jannabi, a writer of the sixteenth century of our æra. Al-Jannabi, and the other writers who contri. buted to this latter work of Gagnier, disgust the reader by their fables. Of the lives of Muhammed compiled from various authors, and not mere translations from one manuscript, that of Savary is the best. It will not be easy to apportion the quantum of demerit in Prideaux and Maracci. Savary is sensible, mild, and impartial; Maracci is violent, Prideaux is dull, and both are always prejudiced. There is a well written paper on the establishment of the religion and empire of Muhammed, by M. Brequigny, in the 32d volume of the Memoirs of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres. From the translations by Gagnier, from Savary's Life, and from M. Bre. quigny's Paper, with occasional references to D'Herbelot, and to Gibbon, (the latter of whom seems in his remarks on Muhammed always to have Savary in view the following sketch of the life of Muhammed has been drawn. pp. 9, 10.
The marriage of Mubammed was the source of all his great. ness. Nursed in poverty, and trained up to early manhood in obscurity, he became a factor to Kadijah, the widow of a rich trader. The person as well as the services of the young factor became, in a little time, agreeable to the widow. She conferred upon his merits her person and ber fortune, and raised Mu" hammed to an equality with the proudest merchants of • Mecca. Muhammed was not ungrateful. So long as she lived, she remained bis only wife ; and after she was dead, when Ayesha, with all the haughty insolence of a blooming beauty, asked, "Was not Kadijah old, and has not God given you a
better in her place ?-No, exclaimed Muhammed, there never
was a kinder or better woman. She trusted in me, when ( men mocked at and despised me: she relieved my wants, o when I was poor and persecuted by the world : She was o all devotion to my cause.'
The state of mind out of which the fanaticism of Muhammed proceeded, (for he was in part an enthusiast, as well as an impostor,) is not upskilfully described by Mr. Mills..
• His youth had been always remarkable for a serious deportment, and for strict attention to devotional exercises; and so general was the reputation of his piety, that on the finding in the well Zemnen, of the black stone, which, it is said, the angel Gabriel brought to Abraham, when he built the Caaba, the people ubanimously declared, that the grandson of Abdol-Motalleb alone was worthy of the honour of replacing it in its station. In a life of leisure and independence, he indulged the fancies of his genius, and every year in the month of Ramadan, he retired for the purposes of fasting, of prayer, and meditation, to the cave in Mount Hara, near Mecca. His charity, .