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In The Triumph of the Cross (Le Triomphe de la Croix) the Koran is said to be Arian, Sabellian, Carpocratian, Cardonician, Manichean, Donatistic, Origenian, Macedonian, and Ebionitish. Mahomet, however, was nothing of ail this; he was rather a Jansenist, for the foundation of his doctrine is the absolute decree of gratuitous predestination.
This Mahomet, son of Abdallah, was a bold and sublime charlatan. He says, in his tenth chapter, “ Who but God can have composed the Koran? Mahomet, you say, has forged this book. Well; try then to write one chapter resembling it, and call to your aid whomsoever you please.” In the seventeenth, he exclaims, “ Praise be to Him who, in one night, transported his servant from the sacred temple of Mecca to that of Jerusalem!”
This was a very fine journey, but nothing like that which he took the very same night from planet to planet. He pretended that it was five hundred years' journey from one to another, and that he cleft the moon in twain. His disciples who, after his death, collected, in a solemn manner, the verses of his Koran, suppressed this celestial journey, for they dreaded raillery and philosophy. After all, they had too much delicacy; they might have trusted to the commentators, who would have found no difficulty whatever in explaining the itinerary. Mahomet's friends should have known by experience that the marvellous is the reason of the multitude: the wise contradict in silence, which the multitude prevent them from breaking. But while the itinerary of the planets was suppressed, a few words were retained about the adventure of the moon: one cannot be always on one's guard.
The Koran is a rhapsody, without connection, without order, and without art. This tedious book is, nevertheless, said to be a very fine production, at least by the Arabs, who assert that it is written with an elegance and purity which no later work has equalled. It is a poem, or a sort of rhymed prose, consisting of
three thousand verses. No poem ever advanced the fortune of its author so much as the Koran. disputed among the Mussulmen whether it was eternal, or God had created it in order to dictate it to Mahomet. The doctors decided that it was eternal; and they were right: this eternity is a much finer opinion than the other, for with the vulgar we must always adopt that which is the most incredible.
The monks who have attacked Mahomet, and said so many silly things about him, have asserted that he could not write. But how can we imagine that a man who had been a merchant, a poet, a legislator, and a sovereign, did not know how to sign his name? If his book is bad for our times and for us, it was very good for his contemporaries, and his religion was still better. It must be acknowledged that he reclaimed nearly the whole of Asia from idolatry. He taught the unity of God, and forcibly declaimed against all those who gave him associates. He forbade usury with foreigners, and commanded the giving of alms. With him prayer was a thing of absolute necessity, and resignation to the eternal decrees the primum mobile of all. A religion so simple and so wise, taught by one who was constantly victorious, could hardly fail to subjugate a portion of the earth. Indeed the Mussulmen have made as many proselytes by their creed as by their swords; they have converted the Indians and the Negroes to their religion ; even the Turks, who conquered them, submitted to Islamism.
Mahomet allowed many things to remain in his law which he had found established among the Arabs-as circumcision; fasting; the pilgrimage to Mecca, which was instituted four thousand
before his time; ablutions, so necessary to health and cleanliness in a burning country, where linen was unknown; and the idea of a last judgment, which the Magi had always inculcated, and which had reached the inhabitants of Arabia. It is said, that on his announcing that we should rise again quite naked, his wife Aishca expressed her opinion that the thing would be immodest and dangerous: “ Do not be alarmed, my dear,” said he, no one will then feel any inclination to laugh.” According to the Koran, an angel will weigh both men and women in a great balance: this idea, too, is taken from the Magi. He also stole from them their narrow bridge which must be passed over after death, and their elysium, where the Mussulmen Elect will find baths, well-furnished apartments, good beds, and houris with great black eyes. He does, it is true, say that all these pleasures of the senses, so necessary to those who are to rise again with senses, will be nothing in comparison with the pleasure of contemplating the Supreme Being. He has the humility to confess that he himself will not enter paradise through his own merits, but purely by the will of God. Through this same pure Divine will, he orders that a fifth part of the spoil shall always be reserved for the prophet.
It is not true that he excludes women from paradise. It is hardly likely that so able a man should have chosen to embroil himself with that half of the human race by which the other half is led. Abulfeda relates, that an old woman one day importuned him to tell her what she must do to get into paradise. good lady,” said he, “paradise is not for old women.” The good woman began to weep; but the prophet consoled her by saying, “There will be no old women, because they will become young again.". This consolatory doctrine is confirmed in the fifty-fourth chapter of the Koran.
He forbade wine, because some of his followers once went intoxicated to prayers. He allowed a plurality of wives, conforming in this point to the immemorial usage of the Orientals.
In short, his civil laws are good ; his doctrine is admirable in all which it has in common with ours; but his means are shocking-villainy and murder!
He is excused by some, on the first of these charges, because, say they, the Arabs had a hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets before him, and there could be no great harm in the appearance of one more: men, it is added, require to be deceived. But how are we to justify a man who says, “ Believe that I
have conversed with the angel Gabriel, or pay me tribute?
How superior is Confucius—the first of mortals who have not been favoured with revelations! He employs neither falsehood nor the sword, but only
The viceroy of a great province, he causes the laws to be observed, and morality to flourish ; disgraced and poor, he teaches them. He practises them alike in greatness and in humiliation; he renders virtue amiable; and has for his disciples the most ancient and wisest people upon earth. *
In vain does Count de Boulainvilliers, who had some respect for Mahomet, extol the Arabs. Notwithstanding all his boastings, they were a nation of banditti. They robbed before Mahomet, when they adored the stars; they robbed under · Mahomet in the name of God. They had, say you, the simplicity of the heroic ages; but what were these heroic ages ?-times when men cut one another's throats for a well or a cistern, as they now do for a province ?
The first Mussulmen were animated by Mahomet with the rage of enthusiasm. Nothing is more terrible than a people who, having nothing to lose, fight in the united spirit of rapine and of religion.
It is true that there was not much art in their proceedings. The contract of marriage between Mahomet and his first wife expresses, that while Cadisha loves him, and he in like manner loves Cadisha, it is thought meet to join them. But is there the same simplicity in having composed a genealogy which makes him descend in a right line from Adam, as several Spanish and Scotch families have likewise been made to descend ?
The great prophet experienced the disgrace common to so many husbands, after which no one ought to complain. The name of him who received the favours of his second wife, was Assam. The behaviour of Mahomet, on this occasion, was even more lofty than that of Cæsar, who put away his wife, saying, “ The wife of Cæsar ought not to be suspected.” The prophet would not suspect his. He sent to heaven for a chapter of the Koran, affirming that his wife was faithful. This chapter, like all the others, had been written from all eternity.
* The partiality of Voltaire to the Chinese is well known; the picture in his time was comparatively new and dazzling. A better acquaintance has not confirmed it; a remark, however, which is made without disparagement to the merited character of Confucius.-T.
He is admired for having raised himself, from being a camel-driver, to be a pontiff, a legislator, and a monarch; for having subdued Arabia, which had never before been subjugated; for having given the first shock to the Roman empire in the East, and to that of the Persians; and I admire him still more for having kept peace in his house amongst his wives. He changed the face of part of Europe, one half of Asia, and nearly all Africa; nor was his religion unlikely, at one time, to subjugate the whole earth.* On how trivial a circumstance will revolutions sometimes depend! A blow from a stone, a little harder than that which he received in his first battle, might have changed thedestiny of the world!
His son-in-law Ali asserted, that when the prophet was about to be inhumed, he was found in a situation not very common to the dead. The words of the Roman sovereign might be well applied in this caseDecet imperatorem stantem mori."
Never was the life of a man written more in detail than his; the most minute particulars of it were regarded as sacred. We have the names and the numbers of all that belonged to him-nine swords, three lances, three bows, seven cuirasses, three bucklers, twelve wives, one white cock, seven horses, two mules, and four camels, besides the mare Borac, on which he
Gibbon observes that, but for the timely victory of Charles Martel over the invading army of the Saracens of Spain, all France might have been Mahometanised, and even our Euglish Oxford bave ultimately been distinguished by mosques in lieu of temples—simple fatalism and clear water, instead of highchurch politics and muddy port,