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literary world they too were and continue to be of immense value. Where could the inquirer into the history of the obscure tribes, among whom Mahomet started into notice, or into the opinions and customs which form the basis of his system and are interwoven with its whole texture, have sought for the gratification of his curiosity? The ponderous labors of D'Herbelot, Pocock, Reland, Hide, or the folios of Arabian historians, might have been accessible to the scholar who devoted himself to the research under favorable circumstances; but to the mass of readers the subject was a dead letter, in comparison with the light which the facilities now afforded have thrown around it. In this point of view, therefore, and considering the spirit of its execution, the admirer of his work will hardly lament that “ Sale is half a Mussulman;" that he came to the work thoroughly acquainted with all the mysteries of the system, so as to throw himself into the conceptions of his author, to imbibe the spirit and energy of his language, and to see even his failings with a charitable eye.
But Sale it is, perhaps, added, is “half a Mussulman,” in a more serious point of view; in one, we admit, much more subject to misrepresentation and suspicion, in as much as it touches certain passions and prejudices, which have, perhaps, the strongest hold on the mind, and are at the same time those which it is the most delicate task to encounter, because they often have their foundation in virtuous motives, in devotional feelings of gratitude and veneration for the blessing of a pure and ennobling system of religion-he has seen and ventured to indicate some points of dignity and utility in a character and system which had hitherto been the subjects of indiscriminate abuse—he has showed that “they were greatly deceived who imagined this faith to have been propagated by the sword alone,” and that “ there was something more than was vulgarly imagined in a religion which had made so surprising a progress.” * This we are disposed to consider one of the greatest merits of Sale's publication. It was idle and ridiculous to bestow nothing but insolent opprobrium and ignorant declamation upon one of the most powerful instruments which the hand of Providence has raised up to influence the opinions and destinies of mankind through a long succession of ages. The whole subject, whether viewed with relation to the extraordinary rise and progress, either of the founder personally, or of the system itself, cannot be otherwise than one of the deepest interest; and we are persuaded that of those who have considered the comparative influences of the Mahometan and Christian religions, there are few who have not at times found themselves confounded at the survey, and compelled to admit that even the former must have been ordained for many wise and beneficent purposes, and to confide in its instrumentality in the production at any rate of great eventual good.
We shall see, more plainly, the obligation which the cause of fair and candid inquiry is under to Sale, when we consider that the bigoted self-sufficiency which was displayed by the Christian world towards the votaries of Mahomet, was, in great measure, owing to the profound ignorance in which it was involved. From the æra of the Crusades down even to a very late period, this ignorance of the nature and character of the Mahometan system, its founder, and history, was extreme. Mahomet was sometimes described as a págan deity, at other times as an idol, and scarcely ever ranked as less than a magician. So far from being aware that he was a zealous advocate of the unity and perfections of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, the Christian church openly pronounced a curse upon the Deity, whose worship he proclaimed, and it required all the influence of the Emperor Manuel Comnenus to remove this anathema, by a compromise, to the shoulders of the prophet himself.
Of the old historians, Grafton, in his chronicle, gives, we think, as fair a sketch of the rise of the prophet and his system as any one of his day, and we quote it that our readers may see what a precious compound it is, of some truth with no small dose of error and misrepresentation, probably by no means intentional, though characteristic of the degree of information which was then prevalent on the subject.
“Mahomet of Arabia, at this time, when there was great confusion of things both in the east and west, then began his career. He came out of a base stock, and being fatherless, one Abdemonaples, a man of the house of Ismael, bought him for his slave, and loved him greatly for his favour and wyt, for which cause he made him ruler of his merchandize and businesse. Then one Sergius, a monk, which for heresie fled into Arabia, instructed him in the heresie of Nestorius. In the same season his master dyed without children, leaving behind him much ryches, and his wife, a rich widowe of fifty years of age, whom Mahomet married, and when she dyed he was made heire, and greatly increased in ryches, and for his magicall artes was had, also, in great admiration and honour of the foolish people. Wherefore, by the counsayle of Sergius, he called himself the prophet of God, and shortly after, when his name was published, and then taken to be of great authoritie, he devised a law or kinde of religion called Alcaron, in the which he tooke some parte well neere of all the heresies that had been before his time. With the Sabellians he denied the Trinitie, with the Manichees he affirmed to be but two persons in the deitiehe denied the equalitie of the father and the son with the Eunomians—and sayed with Macedone, the holie ghost was a creature, and approved the mul
titude of wyves with the Nicolaites.—He borrowed of the Jewes circumcision, and of the Gentiles much superstition, and somewhat he took of the Christian veritie, beside many devilishe phantasies, invented of his owne braine.—Those who obeyed his lawe he called Saracens, &c.”
Even in much later times the spirit of ignorant or bigoted misrepresentation had little subsided ; and of such writers as Prideaux, Marracci, and many others, who have no excuse for their misrepresentation, Mr. Mill truly says, that “they lose their candour, and often their love of truth, when the subject is a Mussulman's religion.—They stand round a cauldron, throw into it all the elements of vice and evil, and the production is a Mahomet.”
Now that the blind fury which precipitated Europe against the Moslem faith and its professors has been softened by time and the progress of knowledge and candid inquiry, we may be allowed to turn a retrospective glance of impartiality upon the merits and fortunes of the rival powers, which brought the eastern and western worlds into collision, and to admit that science and the arts, the sacred cause of liberty itself, owes much to these eastern devotees, and that their annals are bright with some examples worthy of esteem and imitation.-Not to mention that, to the struggles during the Crusades, we mainly owe the abolition of the onerous parts of the feudal system, and the destruction of those aristocratic despotisms, on the ruins of which arose the proudest bulwark of our liberties; we must remind Europe that she is indebted to the followers of Mahomet, as “the link which connects ancient and modern literature;" for the preservation, during a long period of western darkness, of the works of many of the Greek philosophers, and the cultivation of some of the most important branches of science. Mathematics, astronomy, medicine, &c. are highly indebted to their labors.--Spain, Cassino, and Salernum, were the nurseries of the literature of the age; and the works of Avicenna, Averroes, Beithar, Algazel, &c. gave new vigor and direction to the studies of those who were emerging from a state of barbarism. Their zeal in the pursuit of geographical knowledge impelled them to explore and found kingdoms even in those desert regions of Africa, which are, at the present day, impervious to European enterprize.—Through its brightest periods, nay, even from its origin, Mahometanism was comparatively favorable to literature. -“ Mahomet, himself, said, that a mind without erudition was like a body without a soul; that glory consists not in wealth but knowledge ; and his followers were charged to search for learning even in the remotest part of the globe.” “ The caliphate was held, during several ages, by a race of monarchs who rank among the most accomplished by whom any sceptre has been swayed.”—Religious differences were forgotten; “I chose this learned man,” said the Caliph Almamon, speaking of Messul, a Christian, whom he was blamed for making president of a college at Damascus, “not to be my guide in religious affairs, but to be my teacher of science.”
Who has not mourned too over the fate of the last remnant of chivalry, the fall of the mussulman empire in Spain? Who has not felt his bosom swell with admiration towards that brave and generous nation, of whose reign for eight centuries it is observed, that, even by the historians of their enemies, not a single instance of cold blooded cruelty is recorded? Who has not blushed to see a Christian priesthood goading on the civil power to treat with unexampled bigotry a people from whom they had always received humanity and protection; and to record the political fanaticism of Ximenes, in consigning to the flames the labors of the philosophers, mathematicians, and poets of Cordova, the literature of a splendid dynasty of seven hundred years ? Alas! “les Maures vainqueurs des Espagnols, ne persecuterent point les vaincus; les Espagnols vainqueurs des Maures, les ont persecutés et chassés."
Sale reduced into order, and brought within the compass of general readers, the confused mass of historical and traditional information, which exists as to the life, character, and actions of Mahomet.— The subject is one attended with numberless difficulties, and has accordingly been, and probably will ever continue to be, a very unsatisfactory one to those who desire to trace the springs of action, and the first workings of the principles which, in the event, have had an incalculable influence on society. The materials for accurate information are scanty enough; Gibbon, as Mr. Hallam observes, “has hardly apprized the reader sufficiently of the crumbling foundation upon which his narrative of Mahomet's life and actions depends.” Authentic history has furnished a bare outline, which every author has filled up as suited his own fancy and prejudices, a rough sketch, of which the shading, the coloring, the very form and figure, have been left to the whim of the artist.-It has been often handled, but rather because it furnished exercise for the imagination than opportunity for the developement of truth. Boutainvilliers has elevated his subject into a hero, Prideaux sunk him into a devil; but both were often able to defy contradiction if they could not produce proof.
If Sale's memoir is not the most interesting as a literary performance, it has undoubtedly the merit of laying before us in a condensed form the greatest mass of facts and information, bearing upon the subject as well as upon cotemporary history; and though he cautiously abstains from the obtrusion of hypo
thesis, he readily applauds the candor of the pious and learned Spanhemius, “who acknowledged Mahomet to have been richly furnished with natural endowments, beautiful in his person, of a subtle wit, agreeable behaviour, shewing liberality to the poor, courtesy to every one, fortitude against his enemies, and above all a high reverence for the name of God; severe against the perjured, adulterers, prodigals, covetous, false witnesses, &c.; a great preacher of patience, charity, mercy, beneficence, gratitude, honoring of parents and superiors, and a frequent celebrator of the divine praises."
Reviewing what has been said and written by so many different partizans on one side or the other of this interesting subject, and considering it as undoubtedly one which requires rather the exercise of our reasoning faculties on what is known than the exertion of industry to increase the stock of materials; perhaps we too may be indulged in something like speculation on that part of them which is within our reach, and in hazarding a few reflections on what may be allowed to be at least possibilities (we think probabilities) in the case :-we too may be reproached in so doing, with being “half mussulmans;" but we shall receive the imputation in the same sense as we apply it to our author; and we trust that we shall be excused with our readers, even for the avowal of a wish to find some bright spots in a system deeply dyed, we may be obliged to admit in the result, with imposture--that we may humbly “vindicate the ways of God to man,” in doubting whether such an immense dispensation is so purely evil as is commonly assumed,—and may be allowed to indulge in that charity which hopeth all things of the motives of men, where it is impossible to trace them with certainty. Nor shall we surely have any necessity to repel the suspicion of insensibility to the pure spirit and benignant influence of genuine Christianity, if we should sometimes be compelled to bring into disadvantageous contrast the principles and conduct of some of its professors.-It may have a more doubtful friend than the historian, who exposes its corruptions, as a warning to future ages, to avoid errors similar to those which sowed the seeds of the decay and eventual extinction of the once-flourishing churches of the east.
We are much inclined to think, that a very plausible case might be made out, by one who saw nothing, in the scanty materials which exist, under the name of history, of the early life of Mahomet, to contradict, but rather much to support the opinion, that the original project of restoring a purer system of theology and morals was founded on a generous feeling of abhorrence of the prevailing degeneracy and superstition of both Jew and Christian, and the degrading idolatry of the heathen by whom he was surrounded. - It would not be for such a person to