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slightest possible modifications from their nomadic condition, strictly preserving in all essential points the clanship already explained, and consequently for ever at the mercy of jarring passions. The supreme honour of keeping the Caabe had been delegated to the Hashemites. The dignity was, however, but deferred for the time being by the elders, and the feeling in regard to it was that it would relapse as soon as another family showed itself powerful enough either quietly to supplant theirs, or forcibly to wrest hold of the coveted prize. Mecca was thus virtually a settlement of turbulent oligarchs without any legislative conceptions, starting this moment to arms like one man for the assertion of their common tribe's superiority over the nation at large, and the next as quick in tearing each other to pieces in behalf of individual pretensions- a state of perpetual broil and quarrel, where every one was bursting with private pride, and no one could bring himself ever to admit a fellowcitizen to be possessed of any higher eminence than his own. Such was the condition of society which Mahomet set himself to reform. Ardent in soul, ambitious in temper, instinctively alive to the evils of lawlessness, and yet as an Arab of high degree being influenced by pride of blood, Mahomet in the first instance conceived a plan for securing the boon of orderly government, by endowing his own family with a dignity to be exalted above all disturbing competition, in virtue of a special consecration not to be communicated to others. At a banquet in his own dwelling, to which he had gathered all his kinsmen, Mahomet accordingly revealed the scheme he had meditated, for perpetuating the greatness of their house through an inviolable and hereditary pontificate. But his appeal met with rejection. A few of his nearest kinsmen, perhaps from being as such the most exposed to the fascination of his daily intercourse and impassioned speech, did indeed join him heart and soul. Amongst these were Ali, son of Abu Taleb, then the head of the house of Hashem; but the adhesions were merely individual. As a body the clan utterly declined to entertain Mahomet's suggestions. From this moment two courses alone were left to him- either altogether to throw aside all thoughts of reform, or, by appealing from the narrow association of kinship unto the great family of mankind, to widen a mere plot into revolution. The first probably never presented itself to his daring temper, and thus Mahomet found himself drifted into a position far beyond what at starting he had aimed at taking up. The plotter in behalf of his own, but rejected by them, proclaimed himself an apostle to mankind, and breaking with established customs, because too stubborn for his purpose, he
applied himself to crush them by new ones of his own creation. For the Elect by blood, he conceived to substitute Elect in God, who, constituting a theocratic aristocracy that derived its patent of nobility from a revelation whereof Mahomet was the apostle, must prove irreconcilably hostile to all prior claims to distinction. Shielded against personal outrage by the inviolable protection extended to a kinsman under all circumstances, Mahomet stayed on in Mecca as an indefatigable preacher, addressing himself alike to all who visited the shrine, without making any distinction of tribe or race; until his zeal became so openly aggressive, as at last to make it necessary for him to seek safety in flight. On the eve, therefore, of his throwing off the last link in established associations, and of betaking himself away from all fellowship of kindred unto that of merely voluntary and accidental followers, Mahomet felt the necessity of giving, by a binding and solemn covenant, a constitution to what until then had been but a union of sentiment. On a mountain near Mecca he therefore gathered his disciples those about to forsake homes in Mecca and those whom he had converted from other quarters and there, without distinction of birth, blood, or calling, he enrolled them as equal fellows in one community, making them in token thereof swear mutual affection in pairs, a native of Mecca with an individual of foreign origin. Hereupon Mahomet set out for Medina in the midst of his devotees, and on that night, in M. Amari's words, 'there took its rise a 'pontificate, an empire, and an era.'
But the habit of generations cannot be got rid of at a blow, and the Arabs, however inflamed by Mahomet's influence, remained yet at heart in many essential points the same as of old. This was true even of some amongst the Prophet's most cherished disciples, as was seen on his death. Ali, the burning believer, but yet more fiery kinsman, surnamed from his prowess the Lion of God, thought himself as naturally entitled to the succession in the pontificate, as he had been entitled to that of his father's chieftainship over the Hashemites. In him the qualities of an Arab of high degree found a complete expression-an intense sense of what was due to his person combined with the fiercest intrepidity. The possibility of rightful opposition unless it came from the Prophet himself was a thought foreign to Ali's mind. Twice he spurned the caliphate when offered with the condition of his taking counsel with the Elders of Islam, scorning any fetter on his will short of a written injunction in the Koran. The incompatibility of such individual absoluteness with the Prophet's system did not escape the observation of his intimate companions. Depositaries of his confi
dential instructions, these men were thoroughly imbued with the spirit of his doctrine; while the mere fact of having been gathered from all classes and tribes, enlisted their human sympathies strongly against a claim that would introduce in a new shape and confirm in the new society the old spirit of exclusive family tradition, which it had been the founder's intention to destroy. Ali withdrew into sullen retirement; while the successive elevation to the command of the faithful of Abu Bekr, Omar, and Othman, men not connected with the house of Hashem, distinguished only for zeal in the cause of Islam, and who publicly acknowledged this dignity to be a gift from the elders of the community, were so many triumphs of the theocratic principle.
Of these three reigns the second was of paramount importance. Of all Mahomet's disciples, the only one possessed of legislative talents, Omar strove to secure the fulfilment of the Prophet's political views by the creation of appropriate institutions. Alive to the fact that the shock given to Arab society, although powerful, had still not been strong enough as yet to work a radical change in Arab habits of mind, Omar felt the danger to which Mahomet's complex theocracy was exposed of becoming the prey of such personal influences as easily spring up in periods of revolution and strife. This danger he thought to obviate by conciliating the inveterate tendencies of his countrymen through a device which he hoped would enable him to fashion a rebellious element into piers of support for his polity. In the fifteenth year of the Hegira Omar decreed a muster-roll of all believers, which he meant should become the prescriptive form of standing organisation. In it was trampled under foot everything valued hitherto as a genealogical distinction, while the grouping was yet by a family thread. One existing social division alone was not effaced-the division into men of Adnan and Khattan, as inveterate as Arab life itself. But with this exception every traditional eminence was disregarded, and around Mahomet, as the central sun of the Mussulman universe, each family was ranged in a new order depending upon its degree of connexion with him. Nevertheless what may be called the feudal spirit did succeed in asserting itself by the violent elevation of Ali on the murder of the Caliph Othman, and led to events which lastingly affected the political conformation of Islam. At this time a quarter of a century had already elapsed since the Prophet's death. The generation of his contemporaries had mostly followed him, and was replaced by a set of men much less imbued with a primitive reverence for duty, and strongly animated with the daring recklessness of a soldier's
temper. The opportunities offered by the wonderful career of Mussulman conquests had produced a body of illustrious captains, who, at the head of armies in provinces far away from central authority, exercised to all intents an independent power. Many of these generals had risen from the lowest ranks-Amrou, the mighty conqueror of Egypt, was the homeless son of a harlot at Mecca and all were so thoroughly identified in their greatness with the political conditions called into existence by Mahomet, that they felt themselves personally threatened by the elevation of Ali. Therefore they combined in an opposition, which came to a head in Syria. M. Amari points out how the Mussulman force in that province, though commanded by an Adnanite-Moawyah, of the house of Ommeya-was almost wholly composed of men of Khattan, whose pride had been deeply wounded at having a secondary place assigned to them by Omar in his great muster-roll. Adored by the men whom he had so often led to splendid victories, Moawyah dexterously turned to his own good the resentment rankling in the hearts of his soldiers. Thus did it come about that the caliphate passed into the house of Ommeya for several generations, virtually as an absolute possession; an event by which was consummated the failure of Mahomet's project to set up a theocratic polity, though the interests at stake in the struggle between the houses of Ali and Ommeya were not yet finally voided. After the lapse of a century the Ommeiades in their turn were dethroned by a conspiracy which again brought to power the representatives of the family of Hashem in the descendant of Mahomet's uncle Abbas; a revolution the true bearing of which M. Amari has first properly illustrated. Plotted in the Persian province of Khorassan, of which the Abassides were governors, it was mainly effected through the agency of Persians. Thus it proved the means of introducing into the simplicity of Arab society that rich stock of flexible wit proper to the Aryan intellect, which alone could carry Islamism beyond that primitive stage in which the unprogressive vehemence of the Shemitic nature would have left it. From this period a new race, in virtue of its conversion to the true faith, invaded and eventually made its own the whole range of Mussulman polity.
'These new comers enlarged the right of their rulers by their experience in public administration they aided with their learning the compilation of Mussulman jurisprudence they kindled in the breasts of the Arabs the holy fire of knowledge, and, above all, of such civil and religious freedom as could be understood in those regions. The people of the Sassanide empire were, in truth, the masters of the Arabs, as the Greeks were of the
Romans, with the distinction that the different tempers of the two people, and especially of their religious and civil institutions, won for the Persians preponderating political might, which the Greeks failed to get.... The Persians, in a word, made themselves lords of that dominion which the Arabs were at a loss how to keep in their hands. Hence the literary glory that made the Abassides so illustrious; for the Persians, attaining under them office at court and throughout the provinces, disseminated science, cultivated it exclusively, brought it into esteem with the caliphs, and, by their example, attracted Mussulmans of all races, the fewest amongst these being Arabs. But as all wrote in the language of the Koran, these last obtained the reputation of being the guardians of civilisation in the darkest centuries of the Middle Ages.' (Vol. i. pp. 132–42.)
The rapid strides in power made by these intelligent Persians, soon quickened the suspicious dread of their employers, who gladly laid hold of every opportunity for ridding themselves, as much as possible, of their inconvenient presence. Such an opportunity offered itself in Northern Africa, the subjugation of which had defied for more than a century the repeated efforts of Mussulman invaders; and thither accordingly, in A.D. 761, the Abasside caliph despatched four thousand Khorassan warriors with a contingent of Arabs. As the conquest of Sicily proceeded direct from the governors of this African dependency, who for some time continued to assert their suzerainty over the island, M. Amari has devoted much industry to throw light upon the very remarkable vicisssitudes and conditions of Mussulman rule in Africa, where for the first time the onward flood of Islam struck on a material which did not give way at a touch. In his pages the tangled incidents of this hitherto neglected portion of history acquire a lively interest. The administration of the colony offers a singular instance of institutions nowhere else to be found in that degree in the Mussulman world, while what seemed before dreary revolutions assume an eventful aspect when connected by M. Amari with a twofold antagonism-the one within the ranks of the conquerors, and arising out of the irrepressible animosity borne to each other by Adnanite and Khattanite, which led in the end to the subversion of all Arab predominance; the second resting in that stubborn tenacity which is the essential characteristic of the native Berbers, and enabled them, after subjugation and compulsory profession of Islam, to make a ladder to power out of the heretical elements lurking in the religious system which they had unwillingly been driven to embrace. Thus in A. D. 740, the Berbers, joining with some Mahometan sectarians, kindled a flame of revolt which spread through the whole province, reducing for a time the conquerors to the strongholds of