The early growth of Islam

Three years were silently employed by Muhammed in the conversion of fourteen proselytes, among the most notable of whom was Ali, the son of his uncle Abu Talib. In the fourth year he boldly assumed the prophetic office, to show the light of divine truth to his family, and at the end of ten years had gathered together some hundred proselytes, including his uncle Hamza and the fierce and inflexible Omar. But his uncle Abu Talib, while protecting his nephew from the anger of the Koreish, who had long been jealous of the pre-eminence of the family of Hashem, refused to accept his gospel. His worship was interdicted, and the death of Abu Talib seemed to deliver his person to the justice of the gods and the unrelenting animosity of his enemies. His death was resolved, but an angel revealed the conspiracy, and in 622 Muhammed fled from Mecca to Medina.

This flight has fixed the memorable era of the Hegira, which, at the end of twelve centuries, still discriminates the lunar years of the Mahomedan nation. In this sanctuary his sect had been already widely propagated, and Muhammed was received as a prince and assumed the exercise of the regal and sacerdotal office.

The revelations of Muhammed now assumed a fiercer and more sanguinary tone; he now bade the faithful propagate his religion by the sword, and the success of his martial enterprises, the abundance of the spoil, the division of which was regulated by divine law, and the promise of paradise, allured roving Arabs to the standard of religion and plunder.

In the battles of Beder (623) and Chud (625), the prophet maintained his reputation against the hostile forces of the Koreish. The submission of the Jews (623-627) and the Arabian tribes (629) placed in his hands the two potent weapons of wealth and force, and in January 630 he entered Mecca, destroyed the idols of the Ka'aba and secured the profession of Islam by the people of the Holy City. The cause of paganism was destroyed in the valley of Honain in February of the same year, and by 632 his lieutenants on the shores of the Red Sea were saluted by the acclamations of a faithful people.

Muhammed first came into conflict with the Eastern Empire in 629. A raid into Palestine was opposed by the forces of the Emperor Heraclius, and in the doubtful contest that ensued the faithful Zeid was killed and Calid, for his heroic conduct, received the glorious appellation of the 'Sword of God.' A solemn declaration of war against the Romans followed, but prudence influenced the conduct of Muhammed, and ten days' journey from Medina and Damascus he halted, and declared himself satisfied with the peaceful profession of the emperor of the East.

At the age of sixty-three, in June 632, Muhammed passed away. He had expected the moment of dissolution with fortitude; his head was reclined on the lap of Ayesha, the best beloved of all his wives; he fainted with the violence of pain; recovering his spirits he raised his eyes towards the roof of the house and with a steady look, though a faltering voice, uttered the last broken, though articulate words, 'O God! . . pardon my sins. . . . Yes. . . . I come. . . among my fellow-citizens on high,' and thus expired on a carpet spread upon the floor.

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