were withheld; and Mahomet, plunged in deep depression, thought to cast himself headlong from a height; but was held back by the same heavenly messenger. Shortly after this, as, wrapped in his garments, he lay stretched upon his carpet, the angel addressed him in these words:—

"Oh, thou that art covered!
Arise and preach!
And magnify thy Lord;
And purify thy clothes;
And depart from uncleanness.
And show not thy favours in the hope of aggrandisement;
But wait patiently for thy Lord."

Here was now the commission to preach. Mahomet was constituted the Messenger of the Lord and his Apostle, and thenceforward revelations began to follow with frequency one upon another.

Such is the tradition concerning the first beginnings of inspiration in the mind of Mahomet. Some of the shorter Suras, couched. in ecstatic language, were probably delivered at a still earlier period. The reader must bear in mind that the Corân professes to be a revelation proceeding immediately from the Almighty. Its contents are nowhere subjective; that is, they nowhere represent the aspirations of an inspired heart, or the teachings of a prophet himself enlightened of God. Word for word, the revelation comes direct from heaven. The formula, "Speak, thus saith the Lord," either precedes every single sentence, or must be so understood. Thus, to the Moslem, the Corân is in the truest sense Divine; and as such it was meant by Mahomet to be received.


Some of the rhapsodical fragments embodied in the Corân were probably composed by Mahomet as his own, before he conceived the notion of an absolutely objective revelation; but by the true believer the supposition would be rejected as impious. From beginning to end, in his eyes, every word of the Corân emanates direct from the Almighty.

For some time before his assumption of the prophetic office, Mahomet had been sharing the burden of his soul with the more intimate friends and relatives around him. Khadî;ja was the first repository of his spiritual yearnings; and at a time when he laboured under fear of diabolical influence, it was she who comforted him, and brought the aged Waraca to reassure his conviction of a Divine mission. Gradually there gathered around him a little band of devoted followers. Ali and Zeid were among the earliest; and also Abu Bekr, a faithful friend, through whose influence four others (including Othmân) and several ransomed slaves, joined the little circle of believers.

As the teaching of Mahomet developed, and his assertion of the unity of God and rejection of idolatry became more uncompromising, the men of Mecca began strongly to oppose him. They mocked the idea of a resurrection, derided his revelations as the effusions of a frenzied poet, and began to persecute the faith. Mahomet himself was safe under the guardianship of Abu Tâlib. But those who had no such

A.D. 615

protection were hard pressed; and a body of eleven men, some with their families, fled the country, and found refuge across the Red Sea, at the court of Abyssinia. Among these