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diverted from the path of strict discipline, and induced to adopt latitudinarian principles.
Abdul Wahab was born within the last decade of the seventeenth century. While at Bassora and Damascus, the rigid spirit of his party prompted him to inquire into the errors and heresies of the Prophet's followers. On his return, and after he had made the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, he settled at Horeymla, in his native province, and married. The austerity of his life drew upon
him the attention of the people, and he began to preach on the necessity of a reformation. But the people rose against him, and would have ill-treated the reformer, had he not made thence his escape. He went, then, to reside amongst the Ayani, with whom he tarried during eight years, gaining, by the irreproachable tenour of his life, and his piety, the love and veneration of his countrymen.
But his cruelty towards a poor prostitute, who, smitten by her conscience, sought for consolation from the Man of God, and, in lieu of consolation was, by his orders, stoned to death, excited against him the displeasure of the governor, El Hassa. This individual sent orders to the sheik either to banish, or to put Abdul Wahab to death. The former sentence was decreed against the fanatic. When he was on the point of quitting his native province, the inhabitants of Derayeh invited him amongst them. Abdul left his abode with a guide, who had been instructed to assassinate him. The man's spirit, however, was troubled at the contemplation of the deed, and many times during the journey, his resolution gave way
before the assumed sanctity of Abdul. Suddenly, they were met by a guard of honour from Derayeh, commissioned to escort the “ more than prophet” to the city; and on the first glimpse of the armed body, the panicstricken guide turned his horse's head, and stopped not, until he had fairly lost sight of his intended victim, and the approaching cortege. Eben Sehood was the sheik at Derayeh, and became a speedy convert to the doctrines of Abdul. The renown of his sanctity spread throughout the eastern portion of Arabia, and innumerable devotees flocked to his new abode from all quarters of the country, and, settling at Derayeh, became the most zealous of the subjects of Eben Sehood.
The principles of the creed of Abdul Wahab sprung from the recognition of a pure deism. Mahomed, the prophet, according to him, was only the mere instrument of God in promulgating the chapters of the Koran. He was simply a man-unregenerated, weak, ignorant, powerless both in the faculty of prophesying and working miracles. It was, therefore, base and idolatrous to pay homage to the ashes of such a mortal; still more so, to prostrate the body in supplication at the tombs of Ali, or the many saints of Islamite superstition. Their dust, said he, is as valueless as the dust of the desert, and should be given to the winds of
Heaven to scatter abroad, so that no two particles may remain together. Pilgrimages, to this reformer, were of no avail ; relics possessed no heal. ing attribute, or virtue. He disregarded the conflicting commentaries on the Koran, interpreting the text according to its naked and obvious meaning. He enjoined the necessity of praying daily, five several times ; and of fasting during the season of the Rhamadan. He commanded his followers to eschew strong drinks ; to abjure and punish severely fornication and incontinence; to avoid gaming, and the practice of magic; to bestow the hundredth part of all worldly goods in charity; to chastise false witnesses ; to lay aside all ornament in dress, to discard all belief in the necessity of raising temples to martyrs, or supposed saints, and to be assured of the truth that funeral honours and mausoleums to the dead, were only the acts of a rank vanity. He painted to his followers the heinousness of the past idolatries of the race of Islam, and the beautiful cast of the future to be induced by the observance of his innovations.
“ Such man has been, and such may yet become,
Eben Sehood felt his power daily increased by the multiplication of new subjects, who came from all parts of Arabia, to bask in the sunshine of Abdul Wahab's spiritualizing countenance. That chief was a man sufficiently cunning in his generation, and he picked up and guarded vigilantly the pearl which the swinish herd of the Ayani had so scornfully rejected. As his consequence increased, so was Abdul courted and indulged in every conceivable wish by the sheik of Derayeh. His people, and the multitudinous proselytes who thronged his city, began to be actuated by that feeling which is uppermost in the breast of every fresh convert_hatred against those who are opposed to him in religion. They, therefore, desired to be led forth against the heretical sons of Islam, who were dwellers in the same land with themselves. This Eben Sehood was ready and glad to do. While Abdul Wahab remained at Derayeh as the spiritual chief of the new sectarians, Eben Sehood went forth in military array at the head of his followers, a very Kaled, or sword of God, to pour
the vials of his wrath and vengeance on the heads of all non-conforming sinners. Success was his constant companion; his fame was blazoned throughout the whole country, and chiefs and sheiks listened with fear and trembling to his mandate.
Eben Sehood died in 1765, leaving his son Abdelazeez as his successor. This prince, even in his
father's life time, had signalized himself by many achievements. He placed great confidence in his son Sehood, and, assisted by him and by Abdallah, his own brother, he prosecuted with spirit those conquests which his father had so auspiciously undertaken ; and as victory was his never-failing reward, he raised the Wahabite power to an all-controlling ascendancy. In 1770, after having subjugated every tribe of consequence around his patrimonial dominions, he was recognized by the scheriff of Mecca, who desired Abdelazeez to send a competent person to expound to him the maxims of Wahab. His reign, however, notwithstanding his extensive sway, was one hard and continued struggle for the maintenance of his pre-eminence. For neither tranquillity nor peace can be expected in a country of the nature and character of Arabia, where population in most places is thin, and tribes are small and self-governed; where the acts of the husbandman are unknown, and the life of the shepherd, or the violence of the robber, being the only sources of subsistence, the necessity for a frequent change of habitation is imposed upon the people, obedience to which is indeed easy, inasmuch as the solitudes of the desert offer the amplest scope to the most discursive Arab. When Abdelazeez had arrived at that period of his life, that existence assumed a precarious tenure, the Mullah Abdul assembled the followers of his creed, and secured the succession of the Wahab sceptre to