Page 1124

1124 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

sprang from the fanatical enthusiasm of the

Prophet. To great natural abilities he added

the discipline of experience. Perhaps no great

ruler was ever less subject to the impulses of

personal ambition than was Omar. His whole

career showed him to be a man whose guiding

star was integrity, whose fundamental maxim

of government was justice. The temptations

of riches and the allurements of power passed

harmlessly by this unbending apostle of the

early Islam, and to him more than to any

other ruler or man, save only the Prophet, the

establishment of the Empire of the Mohammedans must be referred. Some of the maxims of his government may be favorably compared with those of the greatest and best

sovereigns. It was a rule of his reign that no

female captive who became a mother should

be sold as a slave. In the distributions of

money to the poor from the public treasury

it was the need of the applicant and not his

worthiness that determined the bounty. In

explanation of his course the Caliph was accustomed to say: "Allah has bestowed the

good things of this world to relieve our necessities, not to reward our virtues. Our virtues

will be rewarded in another world."

It was also a settled principle of Omar's

government to pay pensions to those who distinguished themselves in the cause of the

Prophet. Abbas, the uncle of Mohammed,

was granted a yearly stipend of two hundred

thousand dirhems. Nearly all the veterans of

the Syrian, Persian, and Egyptian wars were

rewarded with bounties varying from one

thousand to five thousand dirhems. Nor would the Caliph brook with patience the criticisms

or strictures of any who complained of these

disbursements. Upon the factious opposers

of his policy he hesitated not to heap the

curses of Allah.

It was during the reign of Omar that the

government of Islam began to assume a regular

form. There was a division of labor in the

administration of affairs. An exchequer was

organized and put under the direction of a

secretary. The year of Mohammed's flight

from Mecca was made the Era of Islam from

which all events were dated. A system of

coinage was established, each piece bearing the

name of the Caliph Omar with the inscription, "There is no God

but Allah."

It was, however, by the vast work of conquest that the reign of Omar the Great was

most distinguished. The Mohammedan records claim the capture of thirty-six thousand

towns and fortresses as trophies of the ten years of his administration. But

Omar was by no means a destroyer. As far as

was practicable he preserved all that was taken

from the enemy. Not only so, but he built in

the conquered territory many new cities and

emporiums of commerce. Under his authority

the Caliphate was consolidated and his reign

became the source of the Iliad of Islam,

teeming with great enterprises and heroic adventures. Out of this epoch rose the gigantic

figure of Saracen dominion, and to it must be

referred the rise of that political greatness

which for many generations made the Arabians the masters of the East.

CHAPTER LXXIX.-OTHMAN AND ALI

As soon as the Caliph Omar

had received sepulture, the electoral council which he had appointed convened for the choice

of a successor. Ali and Othman were both members of the body. At first the electors tendered the Caliphate to the former. In doing so they required of him a pledge that he would govern according to the Koran, obey the traditions of Islam, and follow the precedents established by Abu Beker and Omar. To the first two conditions he readily assented, but as it related to his predecessors he declared that he

would follow the dictates of his own conscience

rather than their example. Upon this expression

of his will the electors again assembled, and the

choice fell on Othman, who accepted the terms

of the council, and was proclaimed Caliph.