But beneath the weight of the marvellous the real man is almost buried. He has stood for so long with the mists of obscure imaginings about him that his true lineaments are almost impossible to reproduce. The Western world has alternated between the conception of him as a devil, almost Antichrist himself, and a negligible impostor whose power is transient. It has seldom troubled to look for the human energy that wrought out his successes, the faith that upheld them, and the enthusiasm that burned in the Prophet himself with a sombre flame, lighting his followers to prayer and conquest.
And indeed it is difficult, if not impossible, to re-create effectively the world in which he lived. It is so remote from the seas of the world’s progression, an eddy in the tide of belief which loses itself in the larger surging, that it makes no appeal of familiarity. But that a study of the period and Mahomet’s own personality operating no less through his deeds, faith, and institutions than in the one doubtfully reliable record of his teachings, will result in the perception of the Prophet of Islam as a man among men, has been the central belief during the writing of this biography. Mahomet’s personality is revealed in his dealing with his fellows, in the belief and ritual that he imposed upon Arabia, in the mighty achievement of a political unity and military discipline, and therein he shows himself inexorable, cruel, passionate, treacherous, bad, subject to depression and overwhelming doubt, but never weak or purposeless, continually the master of his circumstances, whom no emergency found unprepared, whose confidence in himself nothing could shake, and who by virtue of enthusiasm and resistless activity wrested his triumphs from the hands of his enemies, and bequeathed to his followers his own unconquerable faith and the means wherewith they might attain wealth and sovereignty.
“And how many cities were mightier
in strength than thy city that
hath cast thee forth?”—The Kuran.