Perhaps more important than the poetical contests was the religious aspect of the fair at Ocatz. Here were gathered Jew, Christian, and Arabian worshipper of many gods, in a vast hostile confusion. Mahomet was familiar with Jewish cosmogony from his knowledge of their faith within his own land, and he had heard dimly of the Christian principles during his Syrian journey. But here, though both Jews and Christians claimed to be worshippers of a single God, and although the Jews took for their protector Abraham, the mighty founder of Mahomet’s own city, yet there was nothing between all the sects but fruitless strife. He saw the Jews looking disdainfully upon the Christian dogs, and the Christians firmly convinced that an irrevocable doom would shortly descend upon every Jew. Both united in condemning to eternal wrath the idol-worshippers of the Kaaba. It was a fiercely outspoken, remorseless enmity that he saw around him, and the impotence born of distrust he saw also.
It is not possible that any hint of his future mission enlightened him as to the part he was to play in eliminating this conflict, but may it not be that there was sown in his mind a seed of thought concerning the uselessness of all this strife of religions, and the limitless power that might accrue to his nation if it could but be persuaded to become united in allegiance to the one true God? For even at that early stage Mahomet, with the examples of Judaism and Christianity before him, must have rejected, even if unthinkingly, the polytheistic idea.
The poetic and warlike contests partook of the fiery earnestness characteristic of the combatants, and it was seldom that the fair at Ocatz passed by without some hostile demonstration. The greatest rivals were the Kureisch and the Hawazin, a tribe dwelling between Mecca and Taif.
The Hawazin were tumultuous and unruly, and the Kureisch ever ready to rouse their hostility by numerous small slights and taunts. We read traditionally of an insult by some Kureisch youths towards a girl of the Hawazin; this incident was closed peaceably, but some years later the Kureisch (always the aggressive party because of their stronghold in Mecca) committed an outrage that could not be passed over. As the fair progressed, news came of the murder of a Hawazin, chief of a caravan, and the seizure of his treasure by an ally of the Kureisch. That tribe, knowing