Page 1128

1128 UNIVERSAL HISTORY- TQE MODERN WORLD.

passages of the Koran were recited by the

faithful as they began the conflict. The battle soon showed that, by sea as well as by

land, a new power had arisen to contest for

the supremacy of the nations. The fleet of

the Emperor was either wrecked or driven

from the scene, and Constantine himself

barely escaped by flight. Such was the battle of the Masts.

The next movements of the Moslems were

directed against Crete and Malta. Landings

were effected, cities taken, conquests made in

the name of the Prophet. The island and city

of Rhodes suffered a memorable assault. That

celebrated Colossus, which was reckoned

one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient

world, was broken into fragments, shipped

to Alexandria, and there sold to a Jewish

merchant.

Soon afterwards a second naval battle was had

with the Christians in the Bay of Feneke,

less decisive in its results than the so called Battle of the Masts in the Sea of Phoenicia.

Subsequently the Arabs coasted along the

shores of Asia Minor, crossed the Hellespont,

and flaunted the emblem of Islam within

sight of the turrets of Constantinople. Thus

in a few years did the inflamed followers of

the Camel-driver of Mecca, springing, as it

were, from the parched sands of the desert,

inspired with the sullen dogma of Fate and

the rapturous vision of Paradise rear their

victorious banners over the ruins of the most

famous states of antiquity.

Ominous was the accident which now befell the Caliph Othman. Mohammed had had

a ring. At his death he gave it to the venerable Abu Beker. After his departure the

sacred relic passed to Omar, and from him to

Othman. It consisted of a band of silver, inscribed with the words, "Mohammed, the

Apostle of Allah." One day, while gazing

into a brook, Othman dropped the ring into

the water. The stream was searched in vain;

the relic could not be found. It was the signet of authority. Great was the dread which

fell upon the superstitious Arabs on account

of this irreparable loss.

It came to pass that since the days of Abu the fragments of the great bronze statue are

said to have been so many and heavy that it required a caravan of nine hundred camels to transport them across the desert.

The Koran had become corrupted by the interpolation of many spurious

passages and false versions. Violent disputes

arose among the teachers of Islam as to what

was and what was not the true Koranic doctrine. The quarrels of the doctors became a

scandal to the faith, and Othman was impelled

to correct the abuses by authority. A council

of the chief Moslems was called, and it was

decreed that all the copies of the Koran, excepting one only which was in the hands of

the old princess Hafza, widow of Mohammed,

and which was recognized as genuine, should

be burned.

The precious volume of the widow was

then used as the basis of seven carefully made

transcripts, and one copy of the authentic

original thus established was ordered to be

placed for preservation in the seven cities of

Mecca, Yemen, Damascus, Bahrein, Bassora,

Cufa, and Medina. All others were given to

the flames. Wherefrom the careful Othman

received the title of the Gatherer of the

Koran.

The Caliph was already in his dotage. For

several years his secretary, named Merwan,

had had an undue ascendancy over the old

man's mind and was indeed the master spirit

in the government. Two other circumstances

tended powerfully to render the administration

unpopular.

In the first place, during the quarter

of a century from the death of Mohammed,

the true moral enthusiasm of his followers

had somewhat abated. The motives of

action which impelled the leaders of Islam

were more worldly, less sincere. Of course

the fiery zeal for the propagation of the faith

still burned in the hearts of soldier and civilian, but the dross of personal ambition and

the cross-purposes of enmity and jealousy prevailed over the higher principles and impulses

of the first believers. In the next place, the

personal and administrative character of Othman was of a kind well calculated to offend

and incite the faithful to discontent. Othman

had assumed a bearing more haughty than

that of his predecessors. His expenditures of

the public money were unreasonably lavish.

He wasted the treasures of Islam upon friends

and favorites, many of whom were unworthy

of respect. To the parasites of the court he

gave money without stint. The ambitious

secretary received a gift of more than five