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III


When Mohammed returned home after the angel had first spoken to him, he told his wife of what he had seen and heard. She at once believed and so became a convert to the new religion. She fell upon her knees at the feet of her husband and cried out:


"There is but one God. Mohammed is God's prophet."


Mohammed then told the story to other members of his family. Some of them believed and became his first followers. Soon afterwards he began to preach to the people. He spoke in the market and other public places. Most of those who heard him laughed at what he told them; but some poor people and a few slaves believed him and adopted the new religion. Others said he was a dreamer and a fool.


Mohammed, however, paid no heed to the insults he received. He went on telling about the appearance of Gabriel and preaching the doctrines which he said the angel had ordered him to teach the people.


Often while speaking in public Mohammed had what he called a "vision of heavenly things." At such times his face grew pale as death, his eyes became red and staring, he spoke in a loud voice, and his body trembled violently. Then he would tell what he had seen in his vision.


After a time the number of his followers began to increase. People came from distant parts of Arabia and from neighboring countries to hear him. One day six of the chief men of Medina (Me-di'-na), one of the largest cities of Arabia , listened earnestly to his preaching and were converted. When they returned home they talked of the new religion to their fellow-citizens, and a great many of them became believers.


But the people of Mecca , Mohammed's own home, were nearly all opposed to him. They would not believe what he preached, and they called him an impostor. The people of the tribe to which he himself belonged were the most bitter against him. They even threatened to put him to death as an enemy of the gods.


About this time Mohammed's uncle and wife died, and he had then hardly any friends in Mecca . He therefore resolved to leave that city and go to Medina . Numbers of the people there believed his doctrines and wished him to come and live among them. So he secretly left his native town and fled from his enemies. With a few faithful companions he made his escape to Medina .


It was in the year of our Lord 622 that Mohammed fled from Mecca . This event is very important in Mohammedan history. It is called "the flight of the prophet, " or "the Hejira (Hej'-i-ra), " a word which means FLIGHT. The Hejira is the beginning of the Mohammedan era; and so in all countries where the rulers and people are Mohammedans, the years are counted from the Hejira instead of from the birth of Christ.


On his arrival in Medina the people received Mohammed with great rejoicing. He lived there the remainder of his life. A splendid church was built for him in Medina . It was called a mosque, and all Mohammedan churches, or places of worship, are called by this name. It means a place for prostration or prayer.



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