“A true vision,” declared Mahomet. “Go and teach it to Bilal, that he may call to prayer, for he has a better voice than thou.”
When Bilal, a slave, received the command, he went up to the Mosque, and climbing its highest minaret, he cried aloud his summons, adding at each dawn:
“Prayer is better than sleep, prayer is better than sleep.”
And when Omar heard the call, he went to Mahomet and declared that he had the previous night received the same vision.
And Mahomet answered him, “Praise be to Allah!”
Therewith was inaugurated the most characteristic observance in Islam, the one which impresses itself very strongly upon the Western traveller as he hears in the dimness of every dawning, before the sun’s edge is seen in the east, the voices of the Muezzin from each mosque in the city proclaiming their changeless message, their insistent command to prayer and praise. He sees the city leap into magical life, the dark figures of the Muslim hurrying to the Holy Place that lies shimmering in the golden light of early day, and knows that, behind this outward manifestation, lies a faith, at root incomprehensible by reason of its aloofness from the advancing streams of modern thought, a faith spiritually impotent, since it flees from mysticism, generating an energy which has expended its vital force in conquest, only to find itself too intellectually backward and physically sluggish to gather in prosperity the fruits of its attainments. Its lack of imagination, its utter ignorance of the lure of what is strange, have been responsible for its achievement of stupendous tasks, for the driving energy behind was never appalled by anticipation, nor checked by any realisation of coming stress and terror. And the same qualities that led the Muslim to world-conquest thereafter caused their downfall, for their minds could not visualise that world of imagination necessary for any creative science, while they were not attuned in intellect for the reception of such generative ideas as have contributed to the philosophic and speculative development of the Western world.
All the characteristics which distinguish Islam to the making and the blasting of its fortunes may be found in embryo in the small Medinan community; for their leader, by his own creative ardour, imposed upon his flock every idea which shaped the form and content of its future career from its rising even to its zenith and decline.
THE BATTLE OF BEDR
"They plotted, but God plotted, and of plotters is God the best.”—The Koran.
Mahomet’s star, now continually upon the ascendant, flamed into sudden glory in Ramadan of the second year of the Hegira. Its brilliance and the bewilderment caused by its triumphant continuance is reflected in all the chronicles and legends clustered around that period.