trading caravan to Syria. Khadîja, delighted with her agent's service, conceived a tender passion for him, and, though nearly forty, while he was but five-and-twenty years of age, became his wife. She bore him two sons and four daughters. Both sons died. The eldest, who survived two years, was called Câsim, whence Mahomet's name of Abul Câsim.

In Mahomet's thirty-fifth year, the Káaba, which had been dilapidated by a flood, was rebuilt; and when the sacred black stone had to be deposited in its place, the lot fell, as by a strange interposition, upon Mahomet (who, for his virtue and integrity, was called by his fellow-citizens "the Faithful") to undertake the task. Shortly after, Mahomet relieved his uncle, Abu Tâlib, of the charge of Ali, one of his sons, then five or six years of age. A strong attachment thenceforth bound together the two cousins; and twenty years after, Ali married Fâtima, Mahomet's youngest daughter. Another close friendship was formed with Zeid, a slave belonging to Khadîja, who had been captured from a Christian tribe. Him Mahomet, having freed, adopted; and he was thenceforth called "Zeid, the son of Mahomet."

Christianity was widely professed by the Syrian and border tribes, and there were some Christian settlements even in the heart of Arabia. The Gospel, therefore, was not altogether unknown at Mecca, though in an imperfect and garbled form. Four "Inquirers" are spoken of by tradition as in search of the "true religion," at that time expected to appear. One of these was the aged Waraca, a cousin of Khadîja, who is said to have written out some parts

of the Gospel; and another, Zeid ibn Amr, who is alleged to have recognized in Mahomet the coming Prophet. Amid much of this sort of tradition, that is marvellous and evidently proleptic, we may perhaps discern the fact that in some quarters a spirit of inquiry had been aroused in the Arab mind. Whether stirred up by such influences, or arising within spontaneously, it is certain that about the age of forty a new life was quickening in the soul of Mahomet. He had passed fifteen years, quiet and unobtrusive, in the bosom of his family, with nothing to distinguish him (save, perhaps, a singular gravity and virtue) from other men. He now began to court solitude and meditation, and for the purpose would retire for days at a time to a cave in Mount Hirâ, one or two

Ætat. 40-43

miles distant from the city. Perplexed with the mysterious destiny of man, and the failure of repeated revelations to enlighten the gross darkness shrouding the peninsula, he would fall into ecstatic reveries; and at last he believed himself called to be a preacher of righteousness and the reformer of his people. On one such occasion he seemed to see the vision of an angel, from whom he received the command (embodied in the Ninety-sixth Sura) to—

"Recite in the name of the Lord who created,—
Created man from nought but congealed blood.
      Recite! For thy Lord is beneficent.
It is He who hath taught [to record revelation] with the pen:
Hath taught man that which he knoweth not."

The vision, we are told, was followed by a considerable period (the Fatrah) during which further revelations