Page 1123

1123 MOHAMMEDAN ASCENDENCY.-CONQUESTS OF FIRST CALIPHS. 1123

named Shahr-Zad, whom he made his subordinate in the work of defense. The acquaintance of the Moslem with this barbaric leader,

and the stories which the latter told of the

mysterious regions of Gog and Magog, finally

determined the adventurous Abdalrahman to

carry his arms beyond the defiles and make

new conquests in a part of the world hitherto

unknown to the faithful. He accordingly

penetrated the countries between the Caspian

and the Euxine, where he encountered the

ancestors of the Turks, who were astonished

at the strange demeanor of the Arabs. "Are

you angels or the sons of Adam?" said they

to the Moslems. To which the true believers

gave answer that they were the sons of Adam,

but that the angels were on their side, fighting the battles of the servants of Allah.

For a while the barbarians were kept aloof

by awe; but presently, when the spell was

broken, they fought the invaders with savage

audacity. By degrees, however, the Turcomans were overcome, and Abdalrahman

turned his arms against the Huns. He laid

siege to Belandscher, the capital city of the

barbarians, but the place withstood his assaults. The Turks came to the assistance of

their beleaguered neighbors. A hard battle was

fought before the walls, and Abdalrahman, who

had undertaken the expedition without the

consent of the Caliph, paid for his rashness

with his life. The army of the faithful made its

way back into the passes of the Caucasus.

Selman lbn Rabiah, brother of Abdalrahman,

was appointed as his successor in command of

the northern outposts of Islam.

For the Caliph Omar the day of fate was

now at hand. Among the Persian prisoners

taken to Medina was a certain carpenter,

named Firuz. Like others of his class, he

was subject to the taunts and exactions of

the Mohammedans. Being compelled by the

authorities to pay a tax of two pieces of silver

a day, he went to the Caliph, complained of

the abuse to which he was subjected, and demanded a redress of his grievance. Omar

heard his story, and decided that one who

received such large wages as Firuz did, he

being a manufacturer of windmills, could well

afford to pay a tax of two pieces a day. Firuz turning away exclaimed: "Then I will build

a windmill for you that shall keep grinding

until the Day of Judgment!" "The slave

threatens me," said the undisturbed Omar.

"If I were disposed to punish any one on

suspicion, I should take off his head." Firuz,

however, was allowed to go at liberty. Nor

was it long until his murderous menace was

carried into effect. Three days after the interview, while the great Caliph was praying in

the mosque of Medina, the Persian assassin

came unperceived behind him and stabbed

him three times with his dagger. The attendants rushed upon the murderer, who defended

himself as long as he could, and then committed suicide rather than be taken.

The good Omar finished his prayer, and

was then borne to his own house to die. He

refused to name a successor, declaring that he

preferred to follow the example of the Prophet.

He, however, appointed a council of six, to

whom the question of succession should be

referred. Foreseeing that the choice would

likely fall on Ali or Othman, he exhorted both

those princes to beware of unrighteousness and

personal ambition. To his own son Abdallah

he gave much fatherly counsel, instructing

him especially to repay into the public treasury eighteen thousand dirhems, which he himself had borrowed. He also wrote a touching

letter to him who should be his successor. He

then made arrangements with Ayesha that he

should be buried by the side of Abu Beker;

and then, on the seventh day after his assassination, quietly expired. His death occurred

in the eleventh year of his reign and the

sixty-third of his age.

A bloody scene followed the murder of the

Caliph. The enraged Abdallah was persuaded

that others as well as Firuz were accessory

to the taking off of his father. Believing

that a conspiracy had existed, he cut them

down without a trial. Thus were slain Lulu-

the daughter of Firuz-a certain Christian,

named Dschofeine, and Hormuzan, who will be

remembered as the captive satrap of Susiana.

So distinguished apart did Caliph Omar

bear in the establishment and propagation of

Islam as fairly to entitle him to his appellative

of the Great. He had all the virtues which