unbelievers. Even in Medina, at the beginning, there was to be "no
constraint in religion."
But the principles of Islam gradually underwent a
change. The caravans of Mecca offered a tempting opportunity for reprisals, and
several expeditions were organized against them. In one of these, conducted
under sealed instructions, the caravan, with two of the Coreishite convoy, was
captured, and a citizen of Mecca killed, and this after the sacred month of
Rajab had set in. Mahomet at first disowned the transaction as sacrilegious, and
placed the prisoners and booty in bond; but it was not long before a Divine
order, justifying hostilities, even in the sacred months, as less grievous than
idolatry and opposition to Islam, removed his scruples. Thereafter the Corân
abounds with incitements to fight for the faith, and with warlike denunciations
against the Coreish.
Mahomet now assumes the position of a theocratic ruler, and the Corân is
freely used for making public his commands. Every word still purports to emanate
from the Deity, as addressed to his Vicegerent on earth. Spiritual precepts
mingle with other matters, but the Revelation becomes more and more the organ of
the Prophet's government. "General orders" on victory or defeat, the
disposal of booty and the treatment of prisoners, statutes of criminal law and
civil rights, ordinances on marriage, slavery, and divorce, instructions
descending even to the regulation of social life and intercourse, and of
Mahomet's own domestic privileges, appear mingled indiscriminately with
religious teaching in the pages of the Corân.
EXPLAINED BY THE LIFE OF MAHOMET
About eighteen months after the Flight, the first pitched battle with the
Coreish took place at Bedr. With an army of 305 followers (of whom two-thirds
were citizens of Medina), Mahomet routed a force three times the number, with
great slaughter, and taking many prisoners. He thus not only struck terror
into the Coreish, but effectually established his position of Chief of
Medina. Here was an evident proof of his mission;
for it was by the Divine
interposition, and by the aid of angelic hosts, that the victoryor
Decision, as it is termedwas gained.
A twelvemonth later the Coreish had their revenge. They advanced upon
Medina 3,000 strong.
Mahomet met them at Ohod, a hill three miles distant
from the city, at the head of but 700 followers; for his ranks had been
thinned by the defection of Abdallah ibn Obey. He was signally defeated, with
the loss of 70 men, including his uncle Hamza; and he himself was wounded and
Still the hand of the Lord was manifest. Defeat was needed to sift
the lukewarm from the true believers, and success, as before at Bedr, would
be again vouchsafed. What if Mahomet himself had been killed? The cause was
of God, and would survive triumphant. And so, with masterly address, both
victory and defeat were made to serve his purpose.
Shortly after the victory of Bedr, a difference having arisen between
Mahomet and the Bani Caynocâa, one of the Jewish tribes settled in the
outskirts of Medina, he invested their fortress. They capitulated. Their