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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [1]

is the name of a celebrated aboriginal tribe of Arabia, from whose ranks came Mohammed, the founder of Islam. The influence which the Koreish must have exerted in the early days of Mohammed is apparent from the fact that they exercised the guardianship over the Kaaba (q.v.). When Mohammed claimed for himself the dignity of a prophet, and inveighed against the primeval superstition of the Koreish (or Meccans, as they are sometimes called, after their principal place of residence, the city of Mecca), he was denounced by all the Koreish tribe. Many of his people were still devoted to Sabaism (q.v.), a somewhat refined worship of the planetary bodies (in all probability the belief of the Koreish in the century preceding the establishment of the Mohammedan creed; compare Sprenger, Life of Mohammed, i, 170; Milman's Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 5:92 sq.; Milman, Latin Christianity, ii, 127; and the article (See Arabia), vol. i, p. 342, in this Cyclopaedia), while many others, although disbelieving the general idolatry of their countrymen, and not yet believers in Judaism, or in the corrupt Christianity with which alone they were acquainted, were looking for a revival of what they called the "religion of Abraham."

Indeed, the greater the number of Mohammed's converts, the greater the opposition of his tribe; for had not the new religionists dared to question the sacredness of the holy temple, and call their ancient gods idols, and their ancestors fools? With all the animosity of an established priesthood trembling for their dignity, their power, and their wealth, the Koreish resisted the inroads of the new prophet, and though there were of their number those who had actually longed for the propagation of a monotheistic faith, they now spurned its establishment, as it was likely to give superiority to the family of Hashem, only a side branch of the powerful tribe. Many of the converts suffered all manner of annoyance; not a few were subjected also to punishment. In consequence of this contest, Mohammed felt constrained to advise his followers to seek refuge in Abyssinia. He himself had hitherto escaped only by the heroic conduct of his adopted father, Abu Talib, who, though not a believer in the new religion, considered it his duty to afford protection to Mohammed and all his kindred. But the rapid spread of the Islamitish doctrines made the Koreish violent, and they now demanded that Mohammed should be delivered into their hands.

Upon Abu Talib's refusal to comply with their demands a feud resulted, and all the Hashemites were excommunicated. The Prophet himself, however, they sought to remove by secret assassination; a price was set upon his head-100 camels and 1000 ounces of silver-and he escaped their vengeance only by the self-possession with which one of his converts, Nueim. met the would-be assassin Omar. "Ere thou doest the deed," said Nueim, "look to thine own near kindred." Omar rushed infatuated to the house of his sister Fatima to punish her apostasy, but there the Koran was presented to him; he read a few sentences, and was changed into a follower of the Prophet. Yet did not the Koreishites abate their hostility; and it is said that for three long years Mohammed was under the depressing influence of the interdict, and constantly obliged even to change his bed in order to elude the midnight assassin (comp. Sale's Koran, ch. 36; D'Herbelot, Biblioth. Orientale, p. 445). A fugitive from his native city, and despairing of making Mecca, the metropolis of the national religion, the centre of his new spiritual empire, he turned to the friendly city of Medina, whither more than a hundred of his faithful flock had preceded him. Here he found a kind reception, and succeeded in winning for his cause and creed six of the most distinguished citizens. From this flight, or rather from the first month of the next Arabic year, the Mohammedan sera (Hegira, q.v.) is dated. (See Mohammed).

Once successfully established at Medina, Mohammed's first object was to secure his native stronghold, and for this purpose he declared himself at war with the Meccans, and opened the contest even during the sacred month of the Rajab. The fair option of friendship, submission, or battle was proposed to the enemies of Mohammed. If they should profess the creed of Islam, they were to be admitted to all the temporal and spiritual benefits of his primitive disciples, and to march under the same banner to extend the religion which they had embraced. In his very first battle he routed the Koreishites, and, notwithstanding a severe loss and a personal wound in the battle near Ohod, his power had increased so rapidly that in the sixth year of the Hegira he determined upon and proclaimed a pilgrimage to Mecca. Although the Meccans did not suffer him to carry out this project, he secured their recognition as a belligerent and equal power with themselves by a formal treaty of peace, into which they mutually entered. In the year following he was allowed to spend a three-days' pilgrimage 'undisturbed at Mecca. The unfortunate attitude of the Koreishites towards Mohammed during his wars with the Christians emboldened him to seek immediate revenge for their treachery, and at the head of an army of 10,000 men he marched against Mecca, before its inhabitants had time to prepare for the attack, without difficulty became master of the place, and readily secured acknowledgment as chief and prophet. Among the first to fall prostrate at his feet were the chiefs of the Koreish. "What mercy can you expect from the man whom you have wronged?" "We confide in the generosity of our kinsman." "And you shall not confide in vain; begone! You are safe, you are free." With the conquest of Mecca the victory of the new religion was secured in all Arabia, and for the history succeeding this event we must refer to MOHAMMED (See Mohammed) and MOHAMMEDANISAM (See Mohammedanisam) . For the detail of the three Koreishite wars, see references in Milman's Gibbon, ii, 133. (See Mecca); (See Medina). (J. H.W.)

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [2]

The chief tribe among the Arabs in Mahomet's time, and to which his family belonged.