Samuel Griswold Goodrich
Library of Alexandria
Famous Men of Ancient Times by Samuel Griswold Goodrich Summary
This individual, who has exercised a greater influence upon the opinions of mankind than any other human being, save, perhaps, the Chinese philosopher Confucius, was born at Mecca, in Arabia, A. D. 570. He was the only son of Abdallah, of the noble line of Hashem and tribe of Koreish—descendants of Ishmael the reputed progenitor of the Arabian race. The Koreishites were not only a commercial people, and rich by virtue of their operations in trade, but they were the hereditary guardians of the Caaba, or Kaaba, a heathen temple at Mecca. The custody of this sacred place, together with all the priestly offices, belonged to the ancestors of Mohammed. The Mohammedan authors have embellished the birth of the prophet with a great variety of wonderful events, which are said to have attended his introduction into the world. One of these is, that the Persian sacred fire, kept in their temples, was at once extinguished over all Arabia, accompanied by the diffusion of an unwonted and beautiful light. But this and other marvels, we leave to the credulity of the prophet's followers. Mohammed's father died early, and his son came under the guardianship of his uncle, Abu Taleb. He was a rich merchant, who was accustomed to visit the fairs of Damascus, Bagdad, and Bassora—three great and splendid cities, and Mohammed often accompanied him to these places. In his twelfth year, Mohammed took part in an expedition against the wandering tribes that molested the trading caravans. Thus, by travelling from place to place, he acquired extensive knowledge, and, by being engaged in warlike enterprise, his imagination became inflamed with a love of adventure and military achievements. If we add to this, that he had naturally a love of solitude, with a constitutional tendency to religious abstraction; and if, moreover, we consider that in his childhood he had been accustomed to behold the wild exercises, the dark ceremonies, and hideous rites of the temple of Caaba—we shall at once see the elements of character, and the educational circumstances, which shaped out the extraordinary career of the founder of Islamism. It appears that Mohammed was remarkable for mental endowments, even in his youth, for, in a religious conversation with a Nestorian monk, at Basra, he showed such knowledge and talent, that the monk remarked to his uncle, that great things might be expected of him. He was, however, attentive to business, and so completely obtained the confidence of his uncle, as a merchant, that he was recommended as a prudent and faithful young man, to Khadijah, a rich widow, who stood in need of an agent to transact her business and manage her affairs. In this capacity he was received, and so well did he discharge his duties, that he not only won the confidence of the widow, but finally obtained her hand in marriage. This event took place when he was about twenty-five years old, Khadijah being almost forty.