The Real Motives of the Prophet
W. Irving, seeking to discover the real motives of “Mahomet” in giving himself for a prophet of God, put the following questions, which himself answered: -
“Was it riches? His marriage with Khadija had already made him wealthy, and for years preceding his ‘pretended vision,’ he had manifested no desire to increase his store. Was it distinction? He already stood high in his native place, as a man of intelligence and probity. He was of the illustrious tribe of Koreish, and the most honoured branch of the tribe. Was it power? The guardianship of the Kaaba, and with it the command of the sacred city had been for generation in his immediate family, and his situation and circumstances entitled him to look forward with confidence to that exalted trust. In attempting to subvert the faith, in which he had been brought up, he struck at the root of all these advantages. On that faith were founded the fortunes and dignities of his family. To assist it, must draw on himself the hostility of his kindred, the indignation of his fellow-citizens and the horror and odium of all his countrymen who were worshippers of the Kaaba.
“Was there anything brilliant in the outset of his prophetic career to repay him for these sacrifices, and to lure him on? On the contrary, it was begun in doubt and secrecy. For years it was not attended by any material success. In proportion as he made known his doctrines and proclaimed his revelations, they subjected him to ridicule, scorn, obloquy and finally to an inveterate persecution, which ruined the fortunes of himself and his friends; compelled some of his family and followers to take refuge in a foreign land; obliged him to hide from sight in his native city, and finally drove him forth a fugitive, to seek an uncertain home elsewhere. Why should he persist for years in course of ‘imposture which was thus prostrating all his worldly fortunes, at a tie of life when it was too later to build up anew?
“He was forty years of age before he first broached his doctrines. He suffered years after year to steal away, before he promulgated them outside of his own family. When he fled from Mecca, thirteen years had elapsed from the announcement of his mission, and from being a wealthy merchant, he had sunk to be a ruined fugitive. When he reached Medina, he had no idea of the worldly power that awaited him; his only thought was to build a humble mosque where he might preach; and his only hope, that he might be suffered to preach with impunity.
“His military triumphs awakened no pride nor vainglory, as they would have done had they been effected for selfish purposes. In the time of his greatest power he maintained the same simplicity of manners and appearance as in the days of his adversity. So far from affecting regal state, he was displeased if, on entering a room, any unusual testimonial of respect were shown him. If he aimed at universal dominion, it was the dominion of faith; as to the temporal rule which grew up in his hands, he used it without ostentation, and he took no step to perpetuate it in his family.
“The riches which poured in upon him from tribute and the spoils of war were expended in promoting the victories of the faith; and in relieving the poor among its votaries; insomuch that his treasury was often drained of its last coin. Omar Ibn Al Hareth declares that ‘ Mahomet’ at his death, did not leave a golden dinar nor a silver dirham, a slave nor a slave–girl, nor anything but his gray mule Daldal, his arms and the ground which he bestowed upon his wives, his children, and the poor.
“It is this perfect abnegation of self connected with this apparently heartfelt piety, running throughout the various phases of his fortune, which perplex one in forming a just estimate of Mahomet’s character. However, he betrayed the alloy of earth after he had worldly power at his command, the early aspirations of his spirit continually returned and bore him above all earthy things. Prayer, that vital duty of Islam, and that infallible purifier of the soul, was his constant practice. “Trust in God”, was his comfort and support in times of trail and despondency. On the clemency of God, we are told, he reposed all his hopes of supernal happiness. Ayesha relates that on one occasion she inquired of his, ‘Oh, prophet, do none enter Paradise but through God’s mercy? ‘None, none, none,’ replied he, with earnest and emphatic repetition. ‘But you, O prophet, will not you enter excepting through His compassion?’ Then ‘ Mahomet’ put his hand upon his head, and replied three times, with great solemnity, ‘Neither shall I enter Paradise, unless God cover me with His mercy.’
“When he hung over the death–bed of his infant son Ibrahim, resignation to the will of God was exhibited in his conduct under this keenest of afflictions; and the hope of soon rejoining his child in Paradise was his consolation. When he followed him to the grave, he invoked his spirit, in the awful examination of the tomb to hold fast to the foundations of the faith, the unity of God, and his own mission as a prophet. Even in his own dying hour, when there could be no longer a worldly motive for deceit he still breathed the same religious devotion, and the same belief in his apostolic mission. The last words that trembled on his lips ejaculated a trust of soon entering into blissful companion-ship with the prophets who had gone before him.”