Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
Letter XXXIX
Hagi Ibbi to the Jew Ben Joshua, Mohammedan Proselyte, at Smyrna
IT 1 seems to me, Ben Joshua, that prodigies always accompany the birth of extraordinary men, as if nature suffered a convulsion, and the celestial power could not bring forth without travail.  1
  There is no birth so marvelous as that of Mohammed. God, who, by the decrees of His providence, had determined from the beginning to send to men that great prophet for the overthrow of Satan, created a light two thousand years before Adam, which, passing from elect to elect through the ancestors of Mohammed, reached him at last, as an authentic sign of his descent from the patriarchs.  2
  It was because of this very prophet that God willed that no child should be conceived, that women should cease to be unclean, and that men should be circumcised.  3
  He came into the world circumcised already, and joy shone upon his face from birth. The earth shook three times, as if she herself had brought forth; all the idols fell forward, and the thrones of kings were overturned. Lucifer was cast into the depths of the sea, and it was only after forty days’ immersion that he swam up from the abyss, and took refuge on Mount Cabes, whence, with a terrible voice, he cried to the angels.  4
  That night, God placed a barrier between the man and the woman, which neither of them could pass. The art of the magicians and of the necromancers cease to avail. A voice from heaven was heard crying, “I have sent into the world my faithful friend.”  5
  According to the testimony of Isben Aben, all the birds, the clouds, the winds, and the hosts of angels, met together to bring up this child, and disputed who should have preference. The birds said in their warblings that it was proper for them to have his upbringing, because they could so easily gather a variety of fruits from many places. The winds murmured and said, “To us rather he should be committed, because we can bear him from all quarters the sweetest odors.” “No, no,” cried the clouds; “no; it is we who should have charge of him, because we can refresh him at any moment with our showers.” From on high the angels indignantly exclaimed, “What will there be left for us to do?” But a voice from heaven silenced their disputes and said, “He will not be withdrawn from mortal hands, because blessed shall be the breasts that suckle him, the hands that touch him, the house wherein he lives, and the bed on which he lies.”  6
  After so many striking testimonies, my dear Joshua, only a heart of iron could refuse to believe the holy law. What more could heaven itself have done to authorize his divine mission, unless it had overturned nature, and destroyed the very men whose salvation it desired.

  PARIS, the 20th of the moon of Rhegeb, 1713.
Note 1. A Hagi is a man who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca.—(M.) [back]

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