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ing to and vouching for the long story which traditionary historians have told the world, concerning the journey of Mahomet to heaven. The chapter begins thus :
“Praise be unto him who transported his servant by night from the sacred temple of Mecca to the farther temple of Jerusalem, the circuit of which we have blessed, that we might show him some of our signs, for God is he who heareth and seeth; and he gave unto Moses the book of the law, &c.”
Now it is certainly very singular, that so extraordinary a revelation as the one in question, forming at present so important a feature in a Mussulman's creed, and so much wanted in a system which claims scarcely any other supernatural testimonial, should be only obscurely hinted at by the principal agent in it, and left to be told in detail by vague and traditionary records.—The soundest rule of criticism undoubtedly is to abstain from assigning a marvellous construction to expressions, if they do not positively require it, and the legend may have been artfully fitted on to take its chance for whatever support this passage might be able to give it; but if we are constrained to take it as literally asserting the actual transportation of the prophet to Jerusalem, (which after all, by the bye, is a long way short of the destination which the fable assigns him) we should certainly, looking at the whole context of the volume and the probabilities of the case, be much inclined to treat the allusion as a forgery, contrived to give some sort of authenticity to the strong dose of the marvellous, which it was found politic to administer to the credulous faithful by their Commanders.
The prophet's'claim to literary merit, in the ornamental part of the Koran, is thus, upon our system, placed on no higher a station than that of a patron and adopter of a certain style of composition, which does not in truth rank very high ; and surely nothing can be more absurd than to place it in any way in comparison with those noble beauties of diction and expression, which every where adorn and sanctify the writings of the Old Testament.
The best part of his work is the animated and dignified assertion of the unity and perfections of the deity, the enforcement of sound precepts of moral duty, and the developement of the simple principles which originally roused the energy of his character, and formed the basis of his system. It degenerates where policy and the love of power lead him into tinsel ornament and absurd legend, and, perhaps, the worst part of all is that which arises from the final assumption of characters, for which he was least of all qualified, those of the monarch' and legislator.We do not mean, however, to rate his abilities even
here so low as many have done; on the contrary, we admit that his code in many respects displays very great humanity, judgment, and foresight.-Of the first quality there are several striking instances.- The European lawgiver will be surprised at being able to find scarcely one capital punishment, except those denounced in wholesale warfare against unbelievers, as in the Mosaic code. The retaliation of blood for blood is softened into a money compensation.—Civil offences merely affecting property are not heavily punished-and towards the unfortunate debtor the law is strikingly lenient;
“If there be any debtor under a difficulty of paying his debt, let his creditor wait till it be easy for him to do it."
If we were lawyers, we should be inclined, in the margin of a well-known statute (usually known among them by no very appropriate name, “ The Statute of Frauds”) to fix a memorandum, that an eastern barbarian had anticipated this monument of Lord Hale's wisdom, (the object of the encomium of Lord Kenyon, as one of the wisest laws in our statute book), in most of its provisions as well as the reasons of the enactment.
“Oh, true believers, when ye bind yourselves one to the other in a debt for a certain time, write it down—and disdain not to write it down, be it a large debt or be it a small one, until its time of payment. This will be more just in the sight of God, and more right for bearing witness, and more easy, that ye may not doubt.—But if it be for a present bargain, which you transact between yourselves, it shall be no crime in you, if ye write it not down.”—Koran, chap. 2.
In bringing these remarks to a close, we can only shortly advert to a subject on which Sale's preliminary dissertation furnishes ample materials and information: we allude to the history and peculiarities of the various sects to which the system has given birth.-Having become the basis of political power, we might very naturally expect to find it debased from whatever purity it originally possessed, by the traditions and mystifications of officious interpreters, and by a weight of ceremonial observances and abuses, protected by the state to gratify the avarice and bigotry of its servants.-Our expectations will be fully accomplished, by the perusal of the list of sectaries and rival creeds which Sale's learned Essay laboriously classifies, and to him we must beg leave to refer, not seeing much interest in endeavouring to reconcile the rival interpreters of the law, to understand their logomachies touching free-will and predestipation, to determine the relative absurdity or orthodoxy of a Shiite or Sonnite, or even to ascertain whether the prophet's steed Borak really and truly had or had not a peacock's tail and a
woman's face. Inest sua gratia parvis; but we willingly give up the pleasure of such investigations to the virtuosi of the Ulemah ; observing, however, for the credit of modern professors, that the furious zeal of the disputants on these matters has much diminished. The Sonnite as well as the Persian doctor has mitigated his prejudices, admits that his rival “is a believer, because he recognizes the holy mission of Mahomet and worships God," and would be ashamed of the polemics in which he once indulged, and of which we subjoin a specimen, (from a work by Thompson, a traveller in 1744,) being a denunciation of a Turkish mufti against a Persian divine, for various sectarian enormities, and, amongst the rest, the profanation of the holy color, green, to the formation of shoes and breeches.
“In short, ye are the kennel of all sin and uncleanliness—Christians and Jews may hope to become true believers, but as for you, Persians, it is impossible. Wherefore, by virtue of the authority I have received from Mahomet, I pronounce it lawful for any one, of what nation soever of true believers, to kill, destroy, and extirpate you.And I hope that the majesty of God in the day of judgment will condemn you to be the asses of the Jews, to be rode and hackneyed in hell by that contemptible people.”
Political differences, in the first instance, occasioned this flame of bigotry, and the removal of such causes of offence may since have tended to quench it.-Comparative indifference to the observance in their full rigor of the formal rites and distinctions of their ancestors, has of late been often remarked among the more enlightened of the Moslem nations; and when feelings of mutual forbearance (to whatever cause they may owe their origin) once exist to any extent, who can doubt that the periodcal pilgrimages, in which the various nations of the earth, professing the same faith, meet to perform together the most sacred offices of their religion, must have a powerful tendency to increase their influence ?
“It is here" (says Ali Bey) “ that the grand spectacle of the pilgrimages of Mussulmen must be seen; an innumerable crowd of men from all nations and of all colors, coming from the extremities of the earth, through a thousand dangers and encountering fatigues of every description, to adore together the same God, the God of nature.—The native of Circassia presents his hand in a friendly manner to the Æthiopian or the negro of Guinea—the Indian and the Persian embrace the inhabitant of Barbary and Morocco, all looking on each other as brothers, as individuals of the same family, united by the bonds of religion, and the greater part speaking or understanding the same language, the language of Arabia.—No! there is not any religion that presents to the senses a spectacle more simple, affecting, and majestic !"
If this were a fit place for entering on such a discussion, we should be happy, before we concluded, to give some details, which we have taken considerable pains to collect, concerning a sect which has risen into notice since the dissertation of Sale, and forms, we think, a striking æra in the history of the Mahometan creed ; we allude to that of the Wahhabites, whose principles of religious reform seem deserving of notice from the philosophic historian, for their general rationality and simplicity, as well as on account of their being grounded on a revival of the fundamentals of the Moslem system, on the broad and simple principles which graced the prophet's original conceptions, without entering into any of the dogmatic speculations or minute points of doctrine which have characterized every other sect, as because they owe their rise and support to the same class of persons, among whom, on the same spot, the faith of Mahomet originally appeared. Their founder has certainly had the judgment to bring into prominency only that which was good, valuable, and beneficial to the cause of reason, and morality, in the faith of his country; to enter completely into the spirit of its first promulgator, and to purge away the corruption which time and the sordid interests of its professors had heaped around the fabric. Despising the ceremonials and traditionary superstitions which he had been taught to regard as the essence of religion, he alone has ventured to revive and act upon the memorable words of Mahomet, uttered before bad passions had diverted the purer and more enlarged current of his feelings ;
“ It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces in prayer towards the east and the west, but righteousness is of him who believeth in God and the last day, and the angels, and the scriptures, and the prophets; who giveth money for God's sake unto his kir dred, and unto the orphan, and the needy, and the stranger, and those who ask, and for redemption of captives; who is constant in prayer and giveth alms; and of those who perform their covenant when they have covenanted, and who behave themselves patiently in adversity and hardships, and in time of violence; these are they who are true, and these are they who fear God.”—chap. 2.
We must apologize for this long excursion into matters of no very general interest, and take our leave of the subject, not, however, without some intention to return to a part of it, probably in connexion with the Moorish dynasty of Spain. We wish we could flatter ourselves with the hope of receiving much assistance from the researches of those who have followed in the train of our enlightened countryman. Modern historians run little hazard of being stiled “ half Mussulmans,” they have not had a tythe of one in their composition ; they have done little more than re-cast, one aster
another, what their immediate predecessors had in the same way borrowed ; and to none is this observation more applicable than to a late historian of Mahometanism. From the excellence of the work we allude to, as a convenient, and in many respects elegant digest of popular materials, we would by no means detract; but we are very much inclined to believe that a diligent inquirer, properly qualified for the task, might, at this time of day, with all the opportunities which are now within the reach of one who knew how to avail himself of them, present the world with a work which should really be one of research into the literature of the Saracens, and should not content itself with retailing the observations of others ; passing over, for instance, the Moorish dynasty in Spain, the most splendid and interesting portion of the inquiry, one that well deserves and would richly repay the pains it would require, in three or four pages of pompous, historical common-places, as if it were all perfectly familiar to the author, but was unworthy of detailed consideration.
Art. II. The Voyage of France; or, a Compleat Journey through
France; with the Character of the People, and the Description of the chief Towns, Fortresses, Churches, Monasteries, Universities, Palaces, and Antiquities; as, also, of the Interest, Government, Riches, &c. by Peter Heylin, D.D. Lond. 1679.
We are incessantly reminded, in our excursions into the bye-paths and obscure corners of literature, of the delusions of authorship, and the “high fantastical" desire of fame. In the breasts of some, indeed, it glows with an intense and purifying flame, which may serve, like the pillar of fire to the children of Israel, to guide them through the wilderness of life with safety and honor. But fame hangs upon the balance of a straw, which the wind turns in favor of those who least expect it. A lucky conception—a casual association, may lead to achievements, which, in a short space of time, secure that which the learned industry of a whole life may look for as vainly, as the man who, bent double with the weight of years, sought for the youth he had lost in the sand ; and even when the steep of fame has been won, a man may walk a beggar through the world with a wreath of laurel round his head, or breathe out the last sigh of disappointed wishes in a goal.—The happiness it held out is as fleeting as its promised cause is uncertain.--" The summerswallow is flown; the fuel of his expended hours is consumed ;