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the prophet performed his last pilgrimage to Mecca, his followers amounted to nearly one hundred thousand warriors, independent of women, slaves, and other attendants.
On his return to Medina, the poison which Mohammed had taken from a Jewess, who is said to have taken this means of testing his claim to the title of Messiah, began to show its effects. He was seized with mortal disease ; and, at his own request, was removed to the house of his favorite wife Ayesha, on whose prudence he depended for concealing any incautious avowal he might make under the pressure of sickness. On the 8th of June, 632, he died, declaring with his last breath that he was about “ to take his place with his fellow-citizen on high," meaning the angel Gabriel. He made no will, he appointed no successor, owing to the contrivance of Ayesha, who feared that Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet, would be nominated the heir of his power; and that she would thus be inferior to her beautiful stepdaughter, Fatima, the wife of Ali.
Section IV.-- Early Progress of the Saracens. The fabric of Islamism was shaken to its very foundation after Mo hammed's death, by the disputes that arose respecting the choice of a
Ali had the best hereditary claims, but his literary tastes, and ascetic manners, rendered him unpopular with the fierce soldiery ; and he had a powerful enemy in Ayesha, whom he had once charged with infidelity. After three days of fierce dispute, the controversy was decided by Omar's proffering the oath of fidelity to Abú Bekr, the father of Ayesha, and one of Mohammed's most faithful followers.
Abú Bekr assumed the title of Khaliph, or vicar, which thenceforth became the designation of the Saracenic emperors. Having superintended the sepulture of his illustrious predecessor at Medina, the khaliph sent an army against Mosseilama, an impostor, who, following the example of Mohammed, attempted to found a new religion. Mosseilama and his followers were exterminated by the gallant Khaled, surnamed from his fiery valor “ the sword of God,” and. Islamism was thenceforward established in Arabia.
Perceiving that it was necessary to find employment for the energetic spirits by which he was surrounded, Abu Bekr prepared to invade the Byzantine and Persian empires, both of which had fallen into a state of deplorable weakness. Osama, the son of Zeid, ravaged Syria, while the province of Irák, the ancient Babylonia, was subdued by Khaled. The conquest of Syria was a more important enterprise ; circulars announcing the undertaking, were sent to the principal Arabian tribes ; and the army which assembled on the occasion was the most numerous that had yet been raised by the Saracens. The emperor Heraclius, alarmed at the approach of such formidable forces, sent a large detachment to meet the enemy on the frontiers, which was defeated with great slaughter. But the imperialists were more successful at Gaza, where they gained a victory over a Moslem division, commanded by Abu Obeidah. The Khaliph invested Amru with the supreme command of the expedition, but intrusted Obeidah's division to Khaled,
The latter made himself master of the city of Bosra, and after gaining several other advantages over the Romans, laid siege to Damascus.
Jerusalem was regarded with as much veneration by the Mussulmans as by the Jews or Christians, and Abú Bekr felt that the capture of so holy a city would give immense strength to the cause of Islám. In his celebrated directions to his generals he displays great knowledge of the country as well as much political wisdom But these directions are still more remarkable for their almost verbal coincidence with a passage in the Book of Revelations (chap. ix. verse 4), which most commentators have regarded as a prophetic description of the Saracens. A reference to the passage will enable the reader to see the striking similarity between the language of the apostle and of the khaliph. When the army was assembled, Abú Bekr addressed the chief commander in the following terms: “ Take care, Yezid-Abn-Abu Sofian, to treat your men with tenderness and lenity. Consult with cers on all pressing occasions, and encourage them to face the enemy with bravery and resolution. If you conquer, spare the aged, the infirm, the women, and the children. Cut down no palm-trees, destroy not the fields of corn. Spare all fruit-trees, slay no cattle but such as are absolutely necessary for food. Always preserve your engagements inviolate ; spare the religious persons who dwell in monasteries, and injure not the places in which they worship God. As for those members of the synagogue of Satan, who shave their crowns, cleave their sculls, unless they embrace Islamism, or pay tribute."
But Jerusalem was not the only city to which sanctity was ascribed in the Mussulman traditions; it was reported that Mohammed, after viewing the lovely and fertile plains in which Damascus stands, from one of the neighboring heights, proclaimed it to be the earthly paradise designed to be the inheritance of true believers. The fiery Khaled recited this tradition to his enthusiastic followers as he led them before the walls, and thus excited their ardor for the siege to a fury that bordered on insanity.
Heraclius sent an army of 100,000 men to relieve the capital of Syria, but the imperialists were thrice routed; and in the last of these battles more than half their number fell in the field. This calamity led to the fall of Damascus, one side of which was stormed by Khaled, just as the other capitulated to Abu Obeidah. A warm dispute arose between the generals as to the claims of the citizens to the benefit of the capitulation; but mercy finally prevailed, and the lives of the Damascenes were spared. Abú Bekr died on the very day that Damascus was taken (A. D. 634); his memory was justly venerated, not only because he pointed the Saracens the way to conquest beyond Arabia, but because he gave their religion its permanent form, by collecting the scattered passages of the Koran, and arranging them in the order which they hold to the present day.
His character was remarkable for generosity and moderation ; he did not reserve for himself any portion of the vast wealth acquired by his victorious armies, but distributed his share to his soldiers and to the poor. He was always easy of access; no petitioner for mercy or claimant of justice went unheard from his presence; both by precept and example, he labored to maintain the republican simplicity so remarkable
In the early history of the Saracens; and though the partisans of Ali regard him as a usurper, they still reverence his memory on account of his moderation and his virtue.
Omar was chosen second khaliph by the unanimous consent of the army. Soon after his accession he received the intelligence of the capture of Damascus; but instead of evincing his gratitude, he yielded to the suggestions of petty jealousy, and transferred the command of the army from Khaled to Abu Obeidah. The conquest of Syria was followed by the subjugation of Persia. Yezdijird, the last monarch of the Sassanid dynasty, sent a large army to recover Irák, under the command of Ferokshad, a general of high reputation. Saad-ebn-Wakass, the leader of the Saracens, relying upon the impetuous courage of his soldiers, eagerly sought a general action ; and Ferokshad, after many vain efforts to protract the war, was forced to a decisive engagement in the plains of Kadseah, or Kadesia. The battle lasted several days, and ended in the almost total annihilation of the Persian army, while the loss of the Arabs did not exceed three thousand men. The celebrated standard of Persia, originally the apron of the patriotic blacksmith Gávah, but which had been enlarged, by successive monarchs, to the length of twenty-two feet and the breadth of fifteen, enriched with jewels of the highest value, fell into the hands of the conquerors and was broken up for distribution.
for distribution. Nor was this the only rich booty obtained
sons of the desert,” who were yet ignorant of its value. “I will give any quantity of this yellow metal for a little white,” was an exclamation made, after the battle was over, by an Arabian soldier, who desired to exchange gold, which he had never before seen, for silver, which he had learned to appreciate (A. D. 638).
Yezdijird assembled a new army in the northern and eastern provinces, while the khaliph reinforced the invaders with fresh bodies of enthusiasts. The battle which decided the fate of Persia was fought at Navahend (, D. 641). Noman, the leader of the Saracens, attacked the Persians in their intrenchments ; nothing could resist the fury of the onslaught; the Persian lines were completely broken; it was a carnage rather than a battle. For ten years Yezdijird, “ a hunted wanderer on the wild,” protracted a faint but unyielding resistance; he was at length slain by a miller with whom he had sought refuge (1. D. 651). Thus ended the dynasty of Sassan, which ruled Persia for four hundred and fifty years, and the memory of which is still cherished by a nation, whose ancient glory is associated with the fame of Ardeshír, Shah-púr, and Nushirván.
Nor were the Saracens less successful in Syria ; Abu Obeidah's caution tempered the fiery zeal of Khaled, and rendered victory more secure, though less rapid. - City after city yielded to the Moslems, and the
army which Heraclius sent to the defence of his unfortunate subjects was irretrievably ruined in the battle of Yermûk. Inspired by this victory, Abu Obeidah laid seige to Jerusalem, and in four months reduced the garrison to such distress, that a surrender was unavoidable. The Khaliph Omar came in person to receive the submission of the holy city. His equipage was a singular characteristic of the simplicity that still prevailed among the Saracens. He rode upon a red camel, with a sack of corn and water-bag slung from the saddle, to supply his wants during the journey. A wooden platter was the only utensil he brought with him; his dress was of camel's hair, coarse and torn ; a single slave constituted his attendance and escort. In this guise he reached the Moslem camp, where he recited the public prayers, and preached a sermon to his troops. He then signed the capitulation, securing to the Christians of Jerusalem protection in person, property: and religious worship, on the payment of a moderate tribute, and entered the city in triumph (A. D. 637). In his triumphal entry the khaliph marched at the head of his troops, in familiar conversation with Sophronius, the Christian patriarch of Jerusalem, whom he hoped to protect from the fanaticism of his followers by this exhibition of confidence. Nor was this the only proof of good faith displayed by Omar; he refused to pray in any of the Christian churches, lest the Mussulmans should take advantage of his example and convert it into a mosque. He chose the ground on which the temple of Solomon anciently stood for the foundation of the mosque which bears his name ; and as it was covered with filth of every kind, he set the example of clearing the spot, to his soldiers, by removing some of the rubbish in his robe.
Aleppo, the ancient Berea, was the next city besieged by the Saracens; it was valiantly defended for four months, but was finally taken by assault, and its governor, Gukinna, with several of his principal officers, embraced the Mohammedan faith. Antioch and Cæsarea were taken with less difficulty ; the emperor Heraclius fled from the province, and his son, after a few unsuccessful efforts, followed him to Constantinople. In six years from their first appearance in Syria, the Saracens completed the conquest of that province, and of Palestine, and secured their acquisitions by occupying the mountain-fortresses on the borders of Cilicia. Egypt was next attacked by Amrú, and subdued without much difficulty. Alexandria alone made a vigorous defence; but it was finally taken by storm, and its valuable library consigned to the flames, through the fanaticism of Omar, who was ignorant of literature and science. In the midst of these triumphs the Khaliph Omar was assassinated by a slave (A. D. 643). During his reign of ten years and a half, the Saracens could boast that they had subdued Syria, Chaldæa, Persia, and Egypt; taken thirty-six thousand cities, towns, and castles ; destroyed four thousand Christian churches, fire and idol temples, and built fourteen hundred mosques.
Omar's memory is held in the highest veneration by the Soonnees, and is eqally execrated by the Sheeahs. His severity and simplicity, which bordered on barbarism, are strikingly contrasted with the luxury and magnificence of his successors.
He had no state or pomp, he lived in a mean house ; his mornings were spent in preaching or praying at the mosque, and during the rest of the day he was to be found in the public market-place, where, clothed in a tattered robe, he administered justice to all comers, directed the affairs of his increasing empire, and received ambassadors from the most powerful princes of the east. To him the Arabs are indebted for the era of the Hejira; before his reign they counted their years from such epochs as wars, famines, plagues, remarkable tempests, or harvests of unusual plenty. He was the first to establish a police in Medina and the other great cities of the empire. Before his reign, the Arabs, accustomed to lawless independence, would admit of no restraint, and the immense conquests of the Saracens had caused such a concourse of strangers in the seats of government,
that cities became nearly as insecure places of residence as the open country. Omar also established a regular system of pay for soldiers in the field, and he also instituted pensions for the wounded and disabled soldiers ; indeed the old companions of Mohammed, those who had borne the dangers and difficulties that beset the prophet in the earlier part of his career, having been rendered incapable of acquiring fresh plunder by wounds and age, would have perished miserably but for the provision which Omar made for their support in their declining years.
Omar, by his will, appointed six commissioners to elect a new khaliph, and their choice fell on Othman-ebn-Affán, whose pliancy of disposition appears to have been his chief recommendation. The change of their sovereign did not abate the rage for conquest among the Saracens. They ceased to limit their exertions to land ; a fleet fitted out by Moawiyah, the governor of Syria, subdued the island of Cyprus (A. D. 647), while the Syrian and Egyptian armies penetrated into Armenia and Nubia. The island of Rhodes was a still more important acquisiion: it yielded to Moawiyah almost without a struggle ; its celebrated Colossus was broken to pieces and sold to a Jew, who loaded nine nundred camels with the metal that it contained. Othman's weakness soon rendered him odious to his warlike subjects. The Egyptian army revolted, and marched to besiege him in Medina; their discontents were appeased for a time by the exertions of Ali, but the insurgents having reason to suspect that the khaliph meditated vengeance, retraced their steps, and murdered him in his palace (A. D. 656). "The Koran, stained with the blood of Othman, is said to be still preserved at Da
Immediately after the murder of Othman, Ali, the cousin and son-inlaw of the prophet, was proclaimed khaliph. His accession was the signal for disorders, which threatened the speedy ruin of the Saracenic empire. His old enemy Ayesha, the widow of Mohammed, excited a revolt in Arabia, affecting to avenge the murder of Othman, though she had more than consented to his death ; Moawiyah headed a revolt in Syria ; and the turbulent army of Egypt set their sovereign's authority at defiance. The first combat was against the partisans of Ayesha, who were routed with great slaughter, and she herself made prisoner. Ali not only spared the life of this turbulent woman, but assigned her a large pension.
Moawiyah was a far more dangerous enemy. By his affected zeal for religion, he had won the friendship of many of the companions of the prophet, while his descent from the ancient chiefs of Mecca procured the support of many who had yielded reluctantly to the sway of Mohammed. The rival armies met in the plains of Saffein, on the western bank of the Euphrates, and more than ninety days were spent in undecisive skirmishes. At length Moawiyah, finding his forces rapidly diminishing, adopted the following singular expedient, on the recommendation of Amrú; he ordered a copy of the Koran to be fixed on the top of a pike, and directed a herald to proclaim, in the presence of both armies, that he was willing to decide all differences by this sacred code. Ali's soldiers forced him to consent to a truce ; two commissioners wero