In such quiet manner Mahomet passed the years immediately preceding the discovery of his mission, and as religious doubts and fears alternated in him with fervour and hopefulness, so signs were not wanting of a spirit of inquiry found abroad in Arabia, discontented with the old religions, seeking for a clearer enthusiasm and withheld from its goal. Legends gather round the figures of four inquirers who are reputed to have come to Mahomet for enlightenment, and the story is but the primitive device of rendering concrete and material all those vague stirrings of the communal spirit towards a more convincing conception of the world— legends that embody ideas in personalities, mainly because their language has no words for the expression of the abstract, and also that, clothed in living garments, they may capture the hearts of men. The time for the coming of a prophet and a teacher could not be long delayed, and a foreboding of his imperious destiny, dark with war and aflame with God’s judgment, had already begun to steal across Mahomet’s hesitant soul.
“Recite thou in the name of thy Lord who created, Yan, who hath made man from Clots of Blood, Recite thou, for thy Lord, he is most bounteous.” The Kuran.
The mental growth by which Mahomet attained the capacity of Prophet and ruler will always have spread about it a misty veil, wherein strange shapes and awful visions are dimly discerned. Did his soul face the blankness that baffles and entices the human spirit with any convictions, the gradual products of thought and experience, or was it with an unmeaning chaos within him that he stumbled into faith and evolved his own creed? His knowledge of Christianity and Judaism undoubtedly helped to foster in him his central idea of the indivisibility of God. But how was this faith wrought out into his conception of himself as the Prophet of his people?
It is impossible for any decision to be made as to the mainspring of his beliefs, except in the light of his character and development of mind. He was passionate and yet practical, holding within himself the elements of seer and statesman, prophet and law-giver, as yet doubtful of the voice which inspired him, but spurred on in his quest for the truth by an intensity of spirit that carried him forward resistlessly as soon as conviction came to him. The man who imposed his dauntless determination upon a whole people, who founded a system of religious and social laws, who moved armies to fight primarily for an idea, could not lightly gain is right to exhort and control. His nature is almost cataclysmic, and once filled with the fire of the Lord, he bursts forth among his fellow-men “with the right hand striking,” to use his own vivid metaphor, but before this evidence of power has come an agonising period of doubt.