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SOON after the death of Salih, the prophet Abraham was born at Susa, or, according to others, at Babylon. He was a contemporary of the mighty king, Nimrod, and his birth falls into the year 1081 after the Flood, which happened in 2242 from the Fall. He was welcomed at his birth by the angel Gairiel, who immediately wrapped him in a white robe. Nimrod, on the night in which Abraham was born—it was between the night of Thursday and Friday morning—heard a voice in his dream which cried aloud, "Woe to them that shall not confess the God of Abraham: the truth has come to light, delusion vanishes!" He also dreamed that the idol which he worshiped had fallen down; and convened, therefore, on the following morning, all his priests and sorcerers, communicating to them his dream. Yet no one knew how to interpret it, or to give any account of Abraham. Nimrod had already once in a dream seen a star which eclipsed the light of the sun and moon, and had, therefore, been warned by his sorcerers of a boy who threatened to deprive him of his throne, and to annihilate the people's faith in him; for Nimrod caused himself to be worshiped as p. 69 God. Yet, seeing that since that dream he had commanded every new-born male to be slain at its birth, he did not think there was any need for farther apprehension. Abraham alone was saved of the children who were born at that time by a miracle of heaven, for his mother had remained so slender during her whole pregnancy that no one had thought of it, and when her hour came she fled to a cave beyond the city, where, aided by the angel Gabriel, she was secretly delivered. In this cave Abraham remained concealed during fifteen months, and his mother visited him sometimes to nurse him. But he had no need of her food, for Allah commanded water to flow from one of Abraham's fingers, milk from another, honey from the third, the juice of dates from the fourth, and butter from the fifth. On stepping, for the first time, beyond the cave, and seeing a beautiful star, Abraham said, "This is my God, which has given me meat and drink in the cave." Yet anon the moon rose in full splendor, exceeding the light of the star, and he said, "This is not God; I will worship the moon." But when, toward morning, the moon waxed more and more pale, and the sun rose, he acknowledged the latter as a divinity, until he also disappeared from the horizon. He then asked his mother, "Who is my God?" and she replied,
"It is I."
"And who is thy God?" he inquired farther.
"And who is my father's God?"
"And Nimrod's God?"
She then struck him on the face, and said, "Be silent!" He was silent, but thought within himself, "I acknowledge no other god than Him who has created heaven and earth, and all that is in them." When he was a little older, his father, Aser, who was a maker of idols; sent him out to sell them; but Abraham cried, "Who will buy what can only do him harm, and bring no good?" so that no one bought of him. One day, when all his townsmen had gone on a pilgrimage to some idol, he feigned sickness, and remaining alone at home, destroyed two-and-seventy idols, which were set up in the temple. It was then that he obtained the honorable surname of Chalil Allah (the friend of God). But on the return of the pilgrims he was arrested, and brought before Nimrod; for suspicion soon rested upon him, both on account of his stay at home, and the contemptuous reflections on the worship of idols in which he was known to indulge. Nimrod condemned him to be burned alive as a blasphemer.* The people of Babel p. 71 then collected wood for a pile during a whole month, or, according to some of the learned, during forty days, and at that time knew of no more God-pleasing work than this: so that if any one was sick, or desired to obtain any favor from his gods, he vowed to carry a certain quantity p. 72 of wood upon his recovery, or on the fulfillment of his wish. The women were especially active; they washed; or did other manual work for hire, and bought wood with their earnings. When at last the pile had attained a height of thirty cubits and a breadth of twenty, Nimrod commanded it to be set on fire. Then there mounted on high such a mighty flame, that many birds in the air were consumed by it; the smoke which arose darkened the whole city, and the crackling of the wood was heard at the distance of a day's journey. Then Nimrod summoned Abraham, and asked him again, "Who is thy God?"
"He that has power to kill and to make alive again," Abraham replied. He thereupon conjured up a man from the grave who had died many years ago, and commanded him to bring a white cock, a black raven, a green pigeon, and a speckled peacock. When he had brought these birds, Abraham cut them into a thousand pieces, and flung them in four different directions, retaining only the four heads in his hands. Over these he said a prayer, then called each bird by name, and behold, the little pieces came flying toward him, and, combining as they had been, united themselves to their heads. The birds lived as before, but he who had been raised from the dead at Abraham's command, descended again into the grave.
Nimrod then caused two malefactors to be brought from prison, and commanded one of them to be executed, but pardoned the other, saying, "I also am God, for I too have the disposal of life and death." However childish this remark was, for he only had the power of remitting the sentence of a living man, not of restoring the dead to life, Abraham did not object, but, in order to silence him at once, said, "Allah causes the sun to rise in the east; if thou be Allah, let it for once rise in the west." But, instead of replying, Nimrod commanded his servants to fling Abraham into the fire, by means of an engine which Satan himself had suggested to him.
At the same instant, the heaven with all its angels, and the earth with all its creatures, cried as with one voice, "God of Abraham! thy friend, who alone worships thee on earth, is being thrown into the fire; permit us to rescue him." The angel that presideth over the reservoirs was about to extinguish the flames by a deluge from on high, and he that keepeth the winds to scatter them by a tempest to all parts of the world; but Allah, blessed be his name! said, "I permit every one of you to whom Abraham shall cry for protection to assist him; yet if he turn only to me, then let me by my own immediate aid rescue him from death."* Then cried Abraham p. 74 from the midst of the pile, "There is no God besides thee; thou art supreme, and unto thee alone belong praise and glory!" The flame had already consumed his robe, when the angel Gabriel stepped before him and asked, "Hast thou need of me?"
But he replied, "The help of Allah alone is what I need!"
"Pray, then, to him, that he may save thee!" rejoined Gabriel.
"He knows my condition," answered Abraham.
All the creatures of the earth now attempted to quench the fire: the lizard alone blew upon it, and, as a punishment, became dumb from that hour.
At Allah's command, Gabriel now cried to the fire, "Become cool, and do Abraham no harm!" To these last words Abraham was indebted for his escape; for at the sound of Gabriel's voice it grew so chill around him that he was well-nigh freezing, and the cold had therefore to be diminished again. The fire then remained as it was, burning on as before, but it had miraculously lost all its warmth; and this was not only so p. 75 with Abraham's pile, but with all fires lighted on that day throughout the whole world.
Allah then caused a fountain of fresh water to spring up in the midst of the fire, and roses and other flowers to rise out of the earth at the spot where Abraham was lying. He likewise sent him a silken robe from Paradise, and an angel in human shape, who kept him company during seven days; for so long he remained in the fire. These seven days Abraham, in later times, frequently called the most precious of his life.
His miraculous preservation in the pile became the cause of his marriage with Radha, the daughter of Nimrod; for on the seventh day after Abraham was cast into the fire, she prayed her father for permission to see him. Nimrod endeavored to dissuade her from it, and said, "What canst thou see of him? He has long ere now been changed into ashes." Yet she ceased not to entreat him, until he suffered her to go near the pile. There she beheld Abraham, through the fire, sitting quite comfortable in the midst of a blooming garden. Amazed, she called out, "O Abraham, does not the fire consume thee?" He replied, "Whoever keeps Allah in his heart, and the words, 'In the name of Allah the All-merciful,' on his tongue, over him has fire no power."
Whereupon she begged his permission to approach him; but he said, "Confess that there is but one only God, who has chosen me to be his messenger!" As soon as she had made this confession of her faith, the flames parted before her, so that she was able to reach Abraham unharmed. But when she returned to her father, and told him in what condition she had found the prophet, and sought to convert him to his faith, he tormented and tortured her so cruelly, that Allah commanded an angel to deliver her from his hands, and conduct her to Abraham, who had meanwhile left the city of Babel.
Still Nimrod was far from being reclaimed; he even resolved to build a lofty tower, wherewith, if possible, to scale the heavens, and to search therein for the God of Abraham. The tower rose to a height of five thousand cubits; but as heaven was still far off, and the workmen were unable to proceed farther with the building, Nimrod caught two eagles and kept them upon the tower, feeding them constantly with flesh. He then left them to fast for several days, and when they were ravenous with hunger, he fastened to their feet a light, closed palanquin, with one window above and another below, and seated himself in it with one of his huntsmen. The latter took along spear, to which a bit of flesh was attached, and thrust it through the upper p. 77 window, so that the famishing eagles flew instantly upward, bearing the palanquin aloft. When they had flown toward heaven during a whole day, Nimrod heard a voice, which cried to him, "Godless man, whither goest thou? Nimrod seized the bow of his huntsman, and discharged an arrow, which forthwith fell back through the window stained with blood, and this abandoned man believed that he had wounded the God of Abraham.
But as he was now so far from the earth that it appeared to him no larger than an egg, he ordered the spear to be held downward, and the eagles and the palanquin descended.
Respecting the blood which was seen on Nimrod's arrow, the learned are not agreed as to whence it came: many contend it was the blood of a fish which the clouds had carried with them from the sea, and adduce this circumstance as the reason why fish need not be slaughtered.* Others suppose that Nimrod's arrow had struck a bird which was flying still higher than the eagles. When Nimrod, in the swell of triumph, once more reached the pinnacle of his tower, Allah caused it to fall in with such frightful p. 78 noise, that all people were beside themselves from terror, and every one spoke in a different tongue. Since that period the languages of men vary, and, on account of the confusion arising from this circumstance, the capital of Nimrod was called Babel (the confusion).
As soon, however, as Nimrod had recovered himself, he pursued Abraham with an army which covered the space of twelve square miles. Allah then sent Gabriel unto Abraham to ask him by what creature he should send him deliverance? Abraham chose the fly; and Allah said, "Verily, if he had not chosen the fly, an insect would have come to his aid, seventy of which are lighter than the wing of a fly."
The exalted Allah then summoned the king of flies, and commanded him to march with his host against Nimrod. He then collected all the flies and gnats of the whole earth, and with them attacked Nimrod's men with such violence, that they were soon obliged to take to flight, for they consumed their skin, and bones, and flesh, and picked the eyes out of their heads. Nimrod himself fled, and locked himself up in a thickly-walled tower; but one of the flies rushed in with him, and flew round his face during seven days, without his being able to catch it, the fly returning again and again to his lip, and sucking it so long that it began to swell. It then flew up p. 79 into his nose, and the more he endeavored to get it out, the more deeply it pressed into it, until it came to the brain, which it began to devour. Then there remained no other means of relief to him than to run his head against the wall, or to have some one strike his forehead with a hammer. But the fly grew continually larger until the fortieth day, when his head burst open, and the insect, which had grown to the size of a pigeon, flew out, and said to the dying Nimrod, who even now would not come to repentance, "Thus does Allah, whenever he pleases, permit the feeblest of his creatures to destroy the man who will not believe in him and in his messenger." The tower, in which Nimrod was, then tumbled in upon him, and he must roll about under its ruins until the day of the resurrection.
After Nimrod's death, many persons, whom the fear of the king had prevented, turned to the only God, and to Abraham his messenger. The first were his nephew Lot, the son of Haran, and Lot's sister Sarah, whom Abraham afterward married. She bore a perfect resemblance to her mother Eve, to whom Allah had given two thirds of all beauty, while the whole human race have to be satisfied with the remaining third, and even of this quota Joseph alone obtained one third.
Sarah was so beautiful that Abraham, who, in p. 80 order to proclaim the true faith, was obliged to make many journeys to Palestine, Syria, Egypt, and Arabia, found it necessary to carry her with him in a chest. One day he was arrested on the banks of the Jordan by a publican, to whom he was obliged to give tithe of all that he carried with him. Abraham opened all his chests but the one in which Sarah was confined; and when the publican proceeded to search it too, Abraham said, "Suppose it to be filled with silks, and let me pay the tithe accordingly." But the officer commanded him to open it. Abraham begged him again to pass it unopened, and offered to give tithe as if it were filled with gold and jewels. Still the other insisted on his seeing the contents of the chest; and, when he beheld Sarah, he was so dazzled by her beauty, that he ran forthwith to the king, reporting what had happened.
The king immediately summoned Abraham, and inquired of him, "Who is the maiden whom thou carriest with thee?" Abraham, from fear of being put to death if he avowed the truth, replied, "She is my sister!" At the same time he told no falsehood,* for in his mind he meant, p. 81 "She is my sister in the faith." When the king heard this, he took her with him to his palace. Abraham stood full of despair before it, not knowing what to do, when Allah caused the walls of the palace to become transparent as glass, and Abraham saw how the king, as soon as he had seated himself with Sarah on a divan, desired to embrace her. But at that instant his hand withered, the palace began to shake, and threatened to fall. The king fell on the ground from dread and fright, and Sarah said to him, "Let me go, for I am the wife of Abraham."
Pharaoh thereupon summoned Abraham, and reproached him for his untruth. The latter then prayed for him, and Allah healed the king, who now gave Abraham many rich presents, and, among others, an Egyptian slave by the name of Hagar.* She bore him a son, whom he called Ismael. But as Sarah was barren, and the more jealous since the light of Mohammed already shone on Ismael's forehead, she demanded of Abraham to put away Hagar and her son. He was undecided, until commanded by Allah to obey Sarah in all things. Yet he entreated p. 82 her again not to cast off her bondmaid and her son. But this so exasperated her, that she declared she would not rest until her hands had been imbrued in Hagar's blood. Then Abraham pierced Hagar's ear quickly, and drew a ring through it, so that Sarah was able to dip her hand in the blood of Hagar without bringing the latter into danger.
From that time it became a custom among women to wear ear-rings.
Sarah now suffered Hagar to remain yet a few years longer with her; but when she had borne Isaac, and observed that Abraham loved him less than Ismael, her jealousy awoke afresh, and she now insisted on Hagar's removal. Abraham then went with her and Ismael on his way, and the angel Gabriel guided them into the Arabian desert, to the place where afterward the holy temple of Mecca was built. This place had been dedicated to the worship of Allah even before Adam's birth.* For when Allah made known to the angels his resolve of creating man, and they said, "Wilt thou fill the earth with sinful creatures?" Allah was so wroth at their dissuasion, that the angels, to reconcile Him, walked, p. 83 singing praises, seven times round His throne. Allah pardoned them, but said, "Build me forthwith, in a direct line downward to the earth, a temple, which the sinners may one day encompass, that they also may obtain mercy, even as ye have now encircled my throne, and been forgiven." Allah afterward gave to Adam a diamond of Paradise, which is now called the black stone; for it afterward grew black by the unclean touch of the heathen, but will one day rise with eyes and a tongue, to bear testimony to those who have touched it in their pilgrimage.* This jewel was originally an angel, appointed to watch over Adam, that he might not eat of the forbidden tree; but, on account of his neglect, was changed into a stone. At the time of the flood Allah lifted up this temple into heaven; yet the winds blew Noah's ark seven times round the spot where it had stood.
After having accompanied Hagar and Ismael unto Mecca, Abraham returned again to Sarah, in Syria, leaving the former, at Gabriel's command, to themselves, provided with a few dates and a bottle of water. But these provisions were soon exhausted, and the whole region was waste, arid, and uninhabited. When Hagar and p. 84 Ismael were suffering from hunger and thirst, the former ran seven times from Mount Susa to Marwa,* calling upon Allah for relief: the angel Gabriel then appeared to her, and stamped upon the earth with his foot, and behold, there started up a fountain, which is still known as the fountain of Semsem.† But at that time its waters were as sweet as honey and as nutritious as milk, so that Hagar was unwilling again to leave these regions.
After some time there came two Amalekites to her, who were seeking a camel which had strayed there, and, finding good water, they informed their tribe thereof, which had encamped a few hours westward. They settled with her, and Ismael grew up among them; but Abraham visited him every month, riding on Barak, his miraculous horse, which carried him in half a day from Syria to Mecca.
When Ismael had attained the age of thirteen years, Abraham heard a voice in his dream, which cried, "Sacrifice Ismael thy son."
The Jews, and even many Mussulmans, do indeed maintain that it was his son Isaac whom Abraham offered; but the true believers reject p. 85 this opinion, inasmuch as Mohammed called himself the son of two men who had been set apart as sacrifices, meaning thereby Ismael and his own father, Abd Allah, whom his grand-father, Abdul Mattalib, intended to offer in fulfillment of a vow, but, by the decision of a priestess, redeemed with a hundred camels.
When Abraham awoke, he was in doubt whether he should regard his dream as a Divine command or as the instigation of Satan. But, when the same dream was yet twice repeated, he dared not to hesitate any longer, and therefore took a knife and a rope, and said to Ismael, "Follow me!"
When Iblis saw this, he thought within himself, "An act so well pleasing to Allah I must seek to prevent," and he assumed the form of a man, and, going to Hagar, said to her, "Knowest thou whither Abraham has gone with thy son?" Hagar answered, "He has gone into the forest to cut wood."
"It is false," replied Iblis; "he intends to slaughter thy son."
"How is this possible?" rejoined Hagar; "does he not love him as much as I?"
"Yea," continued Iblis, "but he believes that Allah has commanded it."
"If it be so," rejoined Hagar, "let him do what he believes pleasing to Allah."
When Iblis could effect nothing with Hagar, he betook himself to Ismael, and said, "Knowest thou for what end this wood which thou hast gathered is to serve?"
Ismael replied, "It is for our use at home."
"No!" rejoined Iblis; "thy father designs to offer thee as a sacrifice, because he dreamed that Allah had commanded him."
"Well," replied Ismael, "if it be so, let him fulfill on me the will of Allah."
Iblis then turned to Abraham himself, and said, "Sheik, whither goest thou?"
"To cut wood."
"For what purpose?"
Abraham was silent; but Iblis continued, "I know thou designest to offer up thy son, because Iblis has suggested it to thee in a dream;" but at these words Abraham recognized Iblis, and flinging at him seven pebbles, a ceremony since observed by every pilgrim, he said, "Get thee gone, enemy of Allah; I will act according to the will of my Lord." Satan went away enraged, but stepped yet twice more in a different form into Abraham's way, seeking to stagger his resolve. Abraham discovered him each time, and each time flung at him seven pebbles.*
When they came to Mina, upon the spot where Ismael was to be offered, the latter said to Abraham, "Father, bind me tightly, that I may not resist, and thrust back thy robe, that it may not be sprinkled with my blood, lest my mother mourn at the sight of it. Sharpen thy knife well, that it may kill me quickly and easily, for, after all, death is hard. When thou reachest home again, greet my mother, and take this robe to her as a memento."
Abraham obeyed weepingly the will of his son, and was just on the point of slaying him, p. 88 when the portals of heaven were opened, and the angels looked on and cried, "Well does this man deserve to be called the friend of Allah!"
At this moment the Lord placed an invisible collar of copper round Ismael's neck, so that Abraham, spite of his utmost exertions, was unable to wound him. But when he put his knife to Ismael's neck a third time, he heard a voice which cried, "Thou hast fulfilled the command which was imparted to thee in thy dream!"
At this call he raised his eyes, and Gabriel stood before him with a fine horned ram, and said, "Slaughter this ram as the ransom of thy son."
This ram was the same which Abel offered and which, in the mean time, had pastured in Paradise.*
The sacrifice over, Abraham returned to Syria, but Ismael remained with his mother among the Amalekites, of whom he took a wife.
One day Abraham desired to visit him; but Ismael was engaged in the chase, and his wife was alone at home. Abraham greeted her, but she did not return his salutation. He prayed p. 89 her to admit him for the night, but she refused his prayer; he then demanded something to eat and to drink, and she answered, "I have nothing but some impure water." Then Abraham left her, and said, "When thy husband returns, greet him, and say, he must change the pillars of his house." When Ismael came home to inquire whether any one had been with her during his absence, she described Abraham, and told what he had enjoined upon her. By her description Ismael recognized his father, and his words he interpreted, that he should separate himself from his wife, which he soon did.
Not long after this, the Djorhamides wandered from Southern Arabia to the regions of Mecca, and drove out the Amalekites, who by their vicious courses had called down on themselves the punishment of Allah. Ismael married the daughter of their king, and learned of them the Arabic tongue. This woman, too, Abraham once found alone, and, on his greeting her, she returned his salutation kindly, rose up before him, and bade him welcome. On his inquiring how it fared with her, she replied, "Well, my lord. We have much milk, good meat, and fresh water."
"Have you any corn?" inquired Abraham.
"We shall obtain that too, by Allah's will. But we do not miss it. Only alight, and come in!"
"Allah bless you!" said Abraham; "but I can not tarry;" for he had given a promise to Sarah not to enter Hagar's house.
"Suffer me, at least, to wash thy feet," said the wife of Ismael, "for thou art indeed covered with dust."
Abraham then placed first his right foot,* and p. 91 then his left, upon a stone which lay before Ismael's house, and suffered himself to be washed. This stone was afterward employed in the temple, and the prints of Abraham's feet are visible upon it to this day.
After she had washed him, Abraham said, "When Ismael returns, tell him to strengthen the pillars of his house!"
As soon as Ismael came home, his wife related to him what had happened to her with a stranger, and what message he had left.
Ismael inquired of his appearance; and when, from her answers, he recognized who it was, he rejoiced greatly, and said, "It was my father Abraham, the friend of Allah, who was doubtless well satisfied with thy reception, for his words signify nothing else than that I should bind thee more closely to me."
When Abraham was a hundred and ten years old, Allah commanded him, in a dream, to follow after the Sakinah; that is, a zephyr with two heads and two wings.
Abraham obeyed, and journeyed after the wind, which was changed into a cloud, at Mecca, on the spot where the temple still stands. A voice then called to him, "Build me a temple on the spot where the cloud is resting."
Abraham began to dig up the earth, and discovered the foundation-stone which Adam had p. 92 laid. He then commanded Ismael to bring the other stones required for the building. But the black stone, which since the flood had been concealed in heaven, or, according to the opinion of some of the learned, on Mount Abu Kubeis, the angel Gabriel brought himself. This stone was even at that time so white and brilliant, that it illuminated during the night the whole sacred region belonging to Mecca.
One day, while Abraham was engaged with Ismael in the building of the temple, there came to him Alexander the Great, and asked what he was building; and when Abraham told him was a temple to the one only GOD, in whom he believed, Alexander acknowledged him as the messenger of Allah, and encompassed the temple seven times on foot.
With regard to this Alexander, the opinions of the learned vary. Some believe him to have been a Greek, and maintain that he governed the whole world; first, like Nimrod before him, as an unbeliever, and then, like Solomon after him as a believer.
Alexander was the lord of light and darkness: when he went out with his army the light was before him, and behind him was the darkness, so that he was secure against all ambuscades, and by means of a miraculous white and black standard, he had also the power to transform the p. 93 clearest day into midnight darkness, or black night into noonday, just as he unfurled the one or the other. Thus he was unconquerable, since he rendered his troops invisible at his pleasure, and came down suddenly upon his foes. He journeyed through the whole world in quest of the fountain of eternal life, of which, as his sacred books taught him, a descendant of Sam (Shem) was to drink, and become immortal. But his vizier, Al-kidhr, anticipated him, and drank of a fountain in the farthest west, thus obtaining eternal youth; and when Alexander came it was already dried up, for, according to the Divine decree, it had been created for one man only. His surname, the Two-cornered, he obtained, according to some, because he had wandered through the whole earth unto her two corners in the east and west; but, according to others, because he wore two locks of hair which resembled horns; and, according to a third opinion, his crown had two golden horns, to designate his dominion over the empires of the Greeks and Persians. But, lastly, it is maintained by many, that one day, in a dream, he found himself so close to the sun that he was able to seize him at his two ends in the east and west, and was therefore tauntingly called the Two-cornered.
The learned are similarly divided respecting the time in which he lived, his birthplace, parentage, p. 94 and residence. Most of them, however, believe that there were two sovereigns of this name among the kings of antiquity: the elder of these; who is spoken of in the Koran, was a descendant of Ham, and contemporary of Abraham, and journeyed with Al-kidhr through the whole earth in search of the fountain of eternal life, and was commissioned by Allah to shut up behind an indestructible wall the wild nations of Jajug and Majug, lest they should have extirpated all the other inhabitants of the world. The younger Alexander was the son of Philip the Greek, one of the descendants of Japhet, and a disciple of the wise Aristotle at Athens.
But let us return to Abraham, who, after his interview with Alexander and Al-kidhr, continued the building of the temple until it had attained a height of nine, a breadth of thirty, and a depth of twenty-two cubits. He then ascended the Mount Abu Kubeis, and cried, "O ye inhabitants of the earth, Allah commands you to make a pilgrimage to this holy temple. Let his commandment be obeyed!"
Allah caused Abraham's voice to be heard by all men both living and uncreated; and all, even the children still in their mothers' womb, cried with one voice, "We obey thy commandment, O Allah!" Abraham, together with the pilgrims, then performed those ceremonies which are yet p. 95 observed to this day, appointed Ismael as the lord of the Kaaba, and returned to his son Isaac in Palestine.
When the latter attained the age of manhood, Abraham's beard became gray, which astonished him not a little, since no man before him had ever turned gray.* But Allah had performed this wonder that Abraham might be distinguished from Isaac. For as he was a hundred years old when Sarah bore Isaac, the people of Palestine derided him, and doubted of Sarah's innocence; but Allah gave to Isaac such a perfect resemblance of his father, that every one who saw him was convinced of Sarah's conjugal fidelity. But, to prevent their being mistaken for each other, Allah caused gray hairs to grow on Abraham as a mark of distinction; and it is only since that time that the hair loses its dark colour in old age. When Abraham had attained to the age of two hundred, or, as some maintain, of a hundred and five-and-seventy years, Allah sent to him the Angel of Death in the p. 96 form of an aged man. Abraham invited him to a meal; but the Angel of Death trembled so much, that, before he could put a morsel into his mouth, he besmeared therewith his forehead, eyes, and nose. Abraham then inquired, "Why tremblest thou thus?"
"From age," replied the Angel of Death.
"How old art thou?"
'"One year older than thyself!"
Abraham lifted lip his eyes to heaven, and exclaimed, "O Allah! take my soul to thee before I fall into such a state!"
"In what manner wouldst thou like to die, friend of Allah?" inquired the Angel of Death.
"I should like to breathe out my life at the moment when I fall down before Allah in prayer."
The angel remained with Abraham until he fell down in prayer, and then put an end to his life.
Abraham was buried by his son Isaac, near Sarah, in the cave of Hebron. For many ages the Jews visited this cave, in which also Isaac and Jacob were afterward buried. The Christians subsequently built a church over it, which was changed into a mosque when Allah gave this country unto the Mussulmans. But Hebron was called Kirjath Abraham (the city of Abraham), or simply Chalil (Friend), and is known by that name unto this day.
* The Jewish legend respecting Abraham's contempt of idolatry and his sentence to be burned alive is as follows: "Terah p. 71 was an idolater, and, as he went one day on a journey, he appointed Abraham to sell his idols in his stead. As often as a purchaser came, Abraham inquired his age, and when he replied, 'I am fifty or sixty years old,' he said, 'Woe to the man of sixty who would worship the work of a day!' so that the purchasers went away ashamed.
"One day a woman came with a bowl of fine flour, and said, 'Set it before them;' but he took a staff and broke all the idols in pieces, and placed the staff in the hands of the largest of them. When his father returned, he inquired, 'Who has done this?' Abraham said, 'Why should I deny it? there was a woman here with a bowl of fine flour, and she directed me to set it before them. When I did so, every one of them would have eaten first; then arose the tallest, and demolished them with the staff.' Terah said, 'What fable art thou telling me! Have they any understanding!'
"Abraham replied, 'Do not thy ears hear what thy lips utter!'
"Whereupon Terah took him and delivered him to Nimrod, who said to Abraham, 'Let us worship the fire!'
"'Rather the water that quenches the fire.'
"'Well, the water.'
"'Rather the cloud which carries the water.'
"'Well, the cloud.'
"'Rather the wind that scatters the cloud.'
"'Well, the wind.'
"'Rather man, for he endures the wind.'
"'Thou art a babbler,' replied the king. 'I worship the fire, and will cast thee into it. May the God whom thou adorest deliver thee thence!'
"Abraham was thrown into a heated furnace, but was saved."—Vide Geiger, i., p. 124.
* The Midrash, p. 20, says, "When the wicked Nimrod cast p. 74 Abraham into the furnace, Gabriel said, 'Lord of the world, suffer me to save this saint from the fire!' but the Lord replied, 'I am the only one supreme in my world, and he is supreme in his; it is meet, therefore, that the supreme should save the supreme.'"
* The laws of the Mohammedans, and of the Jews especially, regulate scrupulously the mode in which clean animals are to be slain; what part is to receive the mortal wound; how it is to be inflicted; the knife to be used; and the formula of prayer to be uttered. But no such laws exist in regard to fish.—E. T.
* The learned reader must be struck with the strong likeness existing between the moral of the Moslems and those of the Sanchez, the Escobars, the Tambourins, and the Molinas. The Bible says, indeed, "Abraham said to Pharaoh, 'She is my sister;'" but it does not justify him by adding that he told no falsehood.—E. T.
* The Midrash, fol. 21, says that Hagar was given as a slave to Abraham by her father Pharoah, who said, "My daughter had better be a slave in the house of Abraham than mistres in any other." Elimelech, in like manner, and for the same reason, gave his daughter as a bondmaid to Abraham, after he had seen the wonders which were done for Sarah's sake.
* The sanctity which the Moslem attaches to places is akin to the feeling in the church of the Pharisees before Christ, and of Rome at present. But the Savior reproves it by those words, "Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."—Matt., xviii., 20.—E. T.
* The black stone of the Kaaba is to this day an object of great veneration with the Mussulmans, and every pilgrim visiting the temple kisses it repeatedly.—E. T.
* The pilgrims to Mecca still run seven times from Mount Susa to Marwa, frequently looking round and stooping down, to imitate Hagar when seeking for water.—E. T.
† This fountain is within the Kaaba: its water is brackish, though somewhat less so than the other water of Mecca.—E. T.
* The Midrash, p. 28, says, "Abraham left Sarah early in the morning, while she slept; but Satan placed himself in his way as an aged man, and said, 'Whither goest thou?'
"'I desire to pray.'
"'But to what purpose are wood and knife?'
"'I may remain absent some days, and must needs prepare my food.'
"'Should a man like thee slay his son who was given him in old age? how wilt thou answer for it in the day of judgment?'
"'God has commanded me.'
"He then presented himself to Isaac in the form of a youth, and said, 'Whither goest thou?'
"'To be instructed by my father in virtue and knowledge.'
"'During thy lifetime or after death? for he verily designs to slay thee.'
"'It matters not; I shall follow him.'
"He went to Sarah, and asked her, 'Where is thy husband?'
"'He has gone to his business!'
"'And thy son?'
"'He is with him!'
"'Didst thou not resolve that he should not go beyond thy door alone?'
"'He must pray with his father.'
"'Thou shalt not see him again!'
"'The Lord do unto my son according to His will!'
* Rabbi Elieser teaches: the ram came from the mountain. Rabbi Jehoshua: an angel brought it from Paradise, where it pastured under the tree of eternal life, and drank from the brook which flows beneath it. The ram diffused its perfume throughout the whole world. It was brought into Paradise on the evening of the sixth day of the creation.—Midrash, p. 28.
* This legend, which has reference to Ismael, and which, it might be supposed, was of Arabic origin, and invented to account for the sanctity of the second curious stone of the Kaaba, is found in the Midrash, p. 27:
"Ismael married a wife of the daughters of Moab, and her name was Asia. After three years Abraham went to visit his son, having sworn previously to Sarah not to alight from his camel. He came toward noon to Ismael's dwelling, in which his wife was alone.
"'Where is Ismael?'
"'He is gone into the desert with his mother to gather dates and some other fruits.'
"'Give me a little bread and water, for I am fatigued with traveling through the wilderness.'
"'I have neither bread nor water.'
"'When Ismael returns home, tell him that he change the door-posts of his house, for they are not worthy of him.'
"As soon as Ismael came, and she reported all that had happened, he understood what Abraham had meant, and sent her away."
"Hagar then brought him a wife from her father's house: her name was Fatima.
"After three years Abraham visited his son again, after having again sworn to Sarah that he would not alight at his house.
"He arrived this time, too, at Ismael's dwelling toward noon, and found Fatima quite alone. But she brought him immediately all that he desired. Then Abraham prayed for Ismael to the Lord, and his house was filled with gold and goods.
"When Ismael returned, and learned from Fatima what had happened, he rejoiced greatly, and knew that Abraham's parental love for him was not yet extinct."—Midrash, p. 28.
* When Sarah weaned her son, Abraham made a feast. Then said the heathen, "Behold this aged couple, who have taken up a child from the streets, pretending it was their own, and to obtain credit more easily, have given a feast in its honor." But the Lord made Isaac so strikingly to resemble, &c. Also, in p. 15, among the wonders which were done in honor of Abraham, is enumerated his turning gray. And again, p. 30, "Before Abraham, there was no special mark of old age," &c.—Midrash, p. 27, 15, 30.