Bīrūnī, Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad, Alberuni's India (v. 1)

(London :  Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.,  1910.)



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124                           ALBERUNI'S INDIA.

memorial of the deceased. However, they could not
settle the business with the merchant, and so they
postponed it until the following day. The idol-merchant
dreamt the following night that the idol addressed him
and spoke to him : ' 0 excellent man ! I am thy work.
I have received through the work of thy hands a figure
which is thought to be the figure of a star. Now I am
no longer a stone, as people called me heretofore ; I am
now known as Mercury. At present it stands in thy
hands to make me either a memorial of something im¬
perishable or of something that has perished already.' "

There is a treatise of Aristotle in which he answers
certain questions of the Brahmins which Alexander had
sent him. There he says : " If you maintain that some
Greeks have fabled that the idols speak, that the people
offer to them and think them to be spiritual beings, of
all this we have no knowledge, and we cannot give a
sentence on a subject we do not know." In these words
he rises high above the class of fools and uneducated
people, and he indicates by them that he does not
occupy himself with such things. It is evident that
the first cause of idolatry was the desire of commemo¬
rating the dead and of consoling the living; but on this
basis it has developed, and has finally become a foul
and pernicious abuse.

The former view, that idols are only memorials, was
also held by the Caliph Muawiya regarding the idols
of Sicily. When, in the summer of A.H. 53, Sicily was
conquered, and the conquerors sent him golden idols
adorned with crowns and diamonds which had been
captured there, he ordered them to be sent to Sind, that
they should be sold there to the princes of the country ;
for he thought it best to sell them as objects costing
sums of so-and-so many denars, not having the slightest
scruple on account of their being objects of abomin¬
able idolatry, but simply considering the matter from a
political, not from a religious point of view.
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