I do not presume to offer opinions on the nature, substance, or character, of the Mussulmaun Faith; but confine myself to the mere relation of such facts as I have received from the best possible authority, viz. the religious men who are of that faith, and live in strict accordance with the tenets they profess.
There are two sects of the Mussulmaun persuasion, as I have before remarked, viz. the Sheahs and the Soonies. The leaders of the former are called Emaums; and those of the latter Caliphas. The Sheahs acknowledge Ali and his immediate descendants (eleven in number) 'the right and only lawful Emaums', in succession, after Mahumud. The Soonies declare the Caliphas--as Omir, Aboubuker, &c.--to be their lawful leaders after Mahumud.
I do not find that there is any great difference in the points of faith between the two sects; they are equally guided by the same laws and ordinances inculcated by Mahumud in the Khoraun; --the Sheahs pursuing the pattern of observances traced out in the life and manners of Ali and his descendants; --and the Soonies taking their examples from the manners of the Caliphas. There is a distinguishing method in ablutions before prayers, and also in the manner of bowing and prostrating in their devotional exercises; this difference, however, has nothing to do with their faith, --the subject and form of their daily prayer is one; but both sects have extra services for particular occasions, agreeable to the instruction of their favourite leaders. The Namaaz (daily prayer) was taught by Mahumud to his followers, every line of which is religiously reverenced by Mussulmauns, and cannot be altered by sectarian principles.
The Mussulmaun faith is founded on three roots; from these spring, with the Sheahs, six branches; with the Soonies, five. The roots are as follows:--
First. --'There is but one God, self existing; ever was, and ever will be; in Whom is all Power, Majesty, and Dominion; by Whom all things are, and were created. With Whom is neither partner or substance: and He alone is to be worshipped.'
Second. --'The Prophets were all true; and all their writings to be relied on, with a true faith.'
Third. --'The resurrection of the dead is certain.'
The Sheahs' branches, or emanations, from the three roots of their faith, are as follow:--
1st. --'Namaaz,' (prayer five times daily); a necessary duty, never to be omitted.
2nd. --'Rumzaun,' (fasting) the whole thirty days of that month; a service acceptable to God from His humble creatures.
3rd. --'The Hadje,' (pilgrimage to Mecca); commanded by Mahumud, and therefore to be obeyed.
4th. --'Zuckhaut;' the fortieth portion of all worldly goods to be set apart every year (an offering to God) for the service of the poor.
5th. --To fight in the road of God, or in His service, against the idolaters.
6th. --To believe that the twelve Emaums were the true and lawful leaders, after Mahumud; to follow in their path, or example, and to succour and defend the Syaads, their descendants.
The Soonies omit the last branch in their profession of faith; with this solitary exception, the creed of the two sects, from all I can understand, is the same. The Sheahs are those who celebrate Mahurrum: in my description of that event will be seen the zealous partizans of the sect; and here may be introduced with propriety, some account of the opposite party denominated Soonies.
The word Calipha implies the master or head of any trade, profession, or calling, --as the master of the tailors, the head master of a college or school, &c. Omir was the first to usurp the title after Mahumud's death, and to him succeeded Aboubuker, and then Ausmaun (Osman).
Aboubuker may have claimed some relationship to Mahumud; --he was converted by his preaching from idolatry to the faith; --he gave his daughter in marriage to Mahumud, by whom two sons were born to him, Ishmael and Ibrahim. 'An angel appeared to Mahumud, saying, Which of thy family shall be taken from thee, Oh, Mahumud! such is the command of God; two of thy youth must die, and I am sent to demand of thee whether it is thy wish Ishmael and Ibrahim, thine own sons, shall be taken from this world, or Hasan and Hosein, the sons of Fatima thy daughter?' The historian continues, after dwelling much on the virtues of the Prophet's only daughter, 'Such was the affection of Mahumud for his daughter Fatima and her children, and so well he knew the purity of their hearts, that he hesitated not a moment in replying, "If the Lord graciously permits His servant to choose, I freely offer my two sons Ishmael and Ibrahim; that Hasan and Hosein may live by His mercy "'.
Omir was also a convert to the faith Mahumud taught: he likewise gave a daughter in marriage to Mahumud; by whom, however, the same historian remarks, his house was not peopled. His only daughter, Fatima, lived to add numbers to his family: she was born to him by the pious female (a widow) who was his first wife and to whom he was united before he commenced his work of conversion. Ali, to whom Fatima was married, was the nephew of Mahumud, and from this union the Syaad race descend to the present day. The Prophet observing real piety in Ali, designed him not only to be the most suitable husband for his amiable daughter, but the best qualified person to be chosen as his successor, when he should be called by 'the hand of death'; and in the most public manner gave charge of his flock to Ali, not long before that event occurred. Mahumud's speech to Ali on that occasion is much reverenced by the Sheah sect; --it has been translated for me by my husband, and is as follows:--
'You, my son, will suffer many persecutions in the cause of religion; many will be the obstructions to your preaching, for I see they are not all as obedient and faithful as yourself. Usurpers of the authority, delegated to you, will arise, whose views are not pure and holy as your own; but let my admonitions dwell on your mind, remember my advice without swerving. The religion I have laboured to teach, is, as yet, but as the buds shooting forth from the tree; tender as they are, the rude blasts of dissension may scatter them to the winds, and leave the parent tree without a leaf: --but suffered to push forth its produce quietly, the hand of Time will ripen and bring to perfection that which has been the business of my awakened life to cultivate. Never, my son, suffer your sword to be unsheathed in the justice of your cause; I exhort you to bear this injunction on your mind faithfully; whatever may be the provocations you receive, or insults offered to your person, --I know this trial is in store for my son, --remember the cause you are engaged in; suffer patiently; never draw your sword against the people who profess the true faith, even though they are but by name Mussulmauns.
'Against the enemies of God, I have already given you directions; you may fight for Him--the only true God, --but never against Him, or His faithful servants.'
When Mahumud was numbered with the dead, Omir soon set himself forward as the lawful successor; he was of good address, and insinuating manners, and succeeded in drawing 'numbers to his threshold'. He preached the same doctrine Mahumud had taught, but sensual indulgence and early developed ambition were more strong in his heart than the faith he preached. Omir grew jealous of Ali's virtues and forbearance, under the various trials of oppression and injustice he chose to visit him with; and resolved that, if possible, he would destroy not only Ali, but his whole family. Omir caused his house to be fired treacherously, but as the historians say, 'the mercy of God watched over the sanctified family'; they escaped from the flames, with no other loss than that of their small property.
The Khoraun was not the work of any particular period in the life of Mahumud. It was not compiled into a book until after Mahumud's death, who was totally unacquainted with letters; each chapter having been conveyed by the angel Gabriel to Mahumud, his inspired memory enabled him to repeat, verbatim, the holy messenger's words to his disciples and converts when assembled as was their daily custom. To as many as committed verse, chapter, or portion to memory, by this oral communication, Mahumud rewarded with the highest seats in his assembly (meaning nearest his person); and to those who wished for employment, he gave the command of detachments sent out against the infidels.
The whole Khoraun was thus conveyed to Mahumud by the angel Gabriel, at many different periods of his mission; and by daily repetition, did he instil into the memory of his followers that mental scripture. But when Omir usurped the right to lead, he ambitiously planned for himself a large share of popularity by causing the Khoraun to be committed to paper, and he accordingly gave orders, that the best scribes should be employed to convey its precepts to writing.
Ali had been engaged in the same employment for some time, perceiving the future benefit to the faith which would accrue from such a labour, and on the very day, when Omir was seated in form to receive the work of his scribes, Ali also presented himself with his version of the Khoraun. It is asserted that Omir treated him with some indignity, and gave the preference to the volume his own scribes had prepared, desiring Ali, nevertheless, to leave that he had transcribed with him, though he candidly told him he never intended it should be 'the Book for the People'. Ali found, on this trying occasion, the benefit of Mahumud's advice, to keep his temper subdued for the trial, and withdrew with his book clasped to his heart, assuring Omir, that the volume should only be the property of his descendants; and that when the twelfth Emaum, prophesied by Mahumud, should disappear from the eye of man, the Khoraun he had written should also disappear, until that Emaum returned, with whom the book he had written should again be found.
The name of Omir is detestable to all lovers of literature, or admirers of ancient history and valuable records. By his orders, the bath was heated with the valuable collection of manuscripts, which it had been the work of ages to complete. Omir was told that the people valued the writings of the ancients, and that they were displeased at this irreparable destruction of valuable records; he asked if the people were not satisfied with the Khoraun? and if satisfied, why should they seek for other knowledge than that book contained? declaring it to be an useless employment of time, to be engaged in any other readings. They say the collection of books thus destroyed was so vast, that it served the purpose, to which it was applied, for many successive days. I have thus far given the accounts I have received of the origin of the two sects amongst the Mussulmauns from good authority. My husband says, that in Hindoostaun the two sects may be nearly equal in number; in Persia the Sheahs certainly prevail; in Turkey all are Soonies; and in Arabia the Sheahs are supposed to preponderate. On the whole, perhaps, the two sects are about equally divided.
The Mussulmauns' Creed, of the Sheah sect, is as follows:--
'I believe in one God, supreme over all, and Him alone do I worship.
'I believe that Mahumud was the creature of God, the Creator; I believe that Mahumud was the messenger of God, (the Lord of messengers); and that he was the last of the prophets. I believe that Ali was the chief of the faithful, the head of all the inheritors of the law, and the true leader appointed of God; consequently to be obeyed by the faithful. Also I believe that Hasan and Hosein, the sons of Ali, and Ali son of Hosein, and Mahumud son of Ali, and Jaufur son of Mahumud, and Moosa son of Jaufur, and Ali son of Moosa, and Mahumud son of Ali, and Ali son of Mahumud, and Hasan son of Ali, and Mhidhie (the standing proof) son of Hasan; the mercy of God be upon them! these were the true leaders of the faithful, and the proof of God was conveyed by them to the people.'
This creed is taught to the children of both sexes, in Mussulmaun families, as soon as they are able to talk; and, from the daily repetition, is perfectly familiar to them at an early age.
I propose describing the funeral service here, as the substance of their particular faith is so intimately connected with the appointed service for the dead.
The dead body of a Mussulmaun, in about six hours after life is extinct, is placed in a kuffin (coffin) and conveyed to the place of burial, with parade suited to the rank he held in life.
A tent, or the kaanaut (screen), is pitched in a convenient place, where water is available near to the tomb, for the purpose of washing and preparing the dead body for interment. They then take the corpse out of the coffin and thoroughly bathe it; when dry, they rub pounded camphor on the hands, feet, knees, and forehead, these parts having, in the method of prostrating at prayer, daily touched the ground; the body is then wrapped neatly in a winding-sheet of white calico, on which has been written particular chapters from the Khoraun: this done, it is taken up with great gentleness and laid in the grave on the side, with the face towards Mecca. The officiating Maulvee steps solemnly into the grave (which is much deeper and wider than ours), and with a loud voice repeats the creed, as before described; after which he says, 'These were thy good and holy leaders, O son of Adam! (here he repeats the person's names). Now when the two angels come unto thee, who are the Maccurrub (messengers) from thy great and mighty God, they will ask of thee, "Who is thy Lord? Who is thy Prophet? What is thy faith? Which is thy book? Where is thy Kiblaah? Who is thy Leader?"
'Then shalt thou answer the Maccurrub thus:--
'"God, greatest in glory, is my only Lord; Mahumud, my Prophet; Islaaim, my faith, (Islaaim means true faith); the Khoraun, my book; the Kaubah (Holy House at Mecca), my Kiblaah;
'"Emaum Ali, son of Aboutalib, " Hasan and Hosein, " Ali, surnamed Zynool Auberdene, " Mahumud, " Baakur, " Jaufur, " Saadick, " Moosa, " Khazim, " Ali, " Reezah, " Mahumud, " Ul Jawaad, " Ali, " Ul Hoodah, " Hasan, " Ul Ushkeree, " Mhidhie, the standing proof that we are waiting for.
'"These are all my leaders, and they are my intercessors, with them is my love, with their enemies is my hatred, in the world of earth and in the world to come eternal."'
Then the Maulvee says:--
'Know ye for a truth, O man (repeating his name), that the God we worship is One only, Great and Glorious, Most High and Mighty God, who is above all lords, the only true God.
'Know ye also, That Mahumud is the best of the Lord's messengers.
'That Ali and his successors (before enumerated, but always here repeated) were the best of all leaders.
'That whatever came with Mahumud is true, (meaning the whole work of his mission); --Death is true; the Interrogation by Moonkih and Nykee (the two angels) is true; the Resurrection is true; Destruction is true; the Bridge of Sirraat is true; the Scales are true; Looking into the Book is true; Heaven and Earth are true; Hell is true; the Day of Judgment is true.
'Of these things there is no doubt--all are true; and, further, that God, the great and glorious God, will raise all the dead bodies from their graves.'
Then the Maulvee reads the following prayer or benediction, which is called Dooar prayer:--
'May the Lord God, abundant in mercy, keep you with the true speech; may He lead you to the perfect path; may He grant you knowledge of Him, and of His prophets.
'May the mercy of God be fixed upon you for ever. Ameen.'
This concluded, the Maulvee quits the grave, and slowly moves forty measured paces in a line with it; then turning round, he comes again to the grave, with the same solemnity in his steps, and standing on the edge, he prays,
'O great and glorious God, we beseech Thee with humility make the earth comfortable to this Thy servant's side, and raise his soul to Thee, and with Thee may he find mercy and forgiveness.'
'Ameen, Ameen,' is responded by all present.
This ends the funeral service: the earth is closed over by the servants, &c. and, except with the very poor, the grave is never entirely forsaken day or night, during the forty days of mourning; readers of the Khoraun are paid for this service, and in the families of the nobility the grave is attended for years by those hired, who are engaged to read from that book perpetually, relieving each other at intervals day and night.
They believe that when the Maulvee quits the grave, the angels enter to interrogate the dead body, and receive the confession of his particular faith; this is the object of the Maulvee's retiring forty paces, to give the angels time to enter on their mission to the dead.
The Mussulmauns all believe that Mhidhie, the standing proof as he is called, will visit the earth at a future period; they are said to possess prophecies, that lead them to expect the twelve hundred and sixtieth year of the Hegirah, as the time for his coming. The Soonies say, this Emaum has yet to be born: --the Sheahs believe that Emaum Mhidhie is the person to reappear. Some believe he is still on earth, dwelling, as they conjecture, in the wilds and forests; and many go so far as to assert, that Mhidhie visits (without being recognized) the Holy House of Mecca annually, on the great day of sacrifice; but I cannot find any grounds they have for this opinion.
They also possess a prophecy, on which much dependance is placed, that 'When the four quarters of the globe contain Christian inhabitants, and when the Christians approach the confines of Kaabah, then may men look for that Emaum who is to come'. And it is the general belief amongst Mussulmauns, founded on the authority of their most revered and valued writers, that Emaum Mhidhie will appear with Jesus Christ at his second coming; and with whom, they declare and firmly believe, he will act in concert to purge the world of sin and wickedness. When, they add, 'all men shall be of one mind and one faith'.
Of the three principal Roots of the Mussulmauns' faith, little need be further said in explanation. I have had various opportunities of learning their undisguised thoughts, and wish only to impart what the people are, who are so little known to the world in general. All persons having had the opportunity of studying the peculiarities of their particular faith, will, I think, give them due credit, that reverence for, and belief in God, forms a prominent trait in their character and faith: 'The English translation of the Khoraun by Sale, (imperfect as all works must be, where the two languages are inadequate to speak each other's meaning,) will tell without a commentary, that the worship of God was the foundation on which Mahumud built his code of laws; and that the prophets were all acknowledged by him as messengers sent from God to His people, in every age of the world; and, lastly, that Mahumud was the Prophet, who came when the people of the earth, vicious and profane, had fallen into the most dissolute habits, worshipping idols instead of God.' This passage is the sentiment expressed to me by a worthy man, and a true Mussulmaun; I have traced it out for the sake of explaining what is in the hearts of the Mussulmauns of the present day.
When I have conversed with some of them on the improbability of Mahumud's prophetic mission, I have been silenced by a few words, 'How many prophets were sent to the Israelites?' --'Many.' --'You cannot enumerate them? then, is it too much to be probable that God's mercy should have been graciously extended to the children of Ishmael? they also are Abraham's seed. The Israelites had many prophets, in all of whom we believe; the Ishmaelites have one Prophet only, whose mission was to draw men from idolatry to the true God. All men, they add will be judged according to their fidelity in the faith they have professed. It is not the outward sign which makes a man the true Mussulmaun; neither is it the mere profession of Christianity which will clear the man at the last day. Religion and faith are of the heart.'
In their collection of writings, I have had access to a voluminous work, entitled 'Hyaatool Kaaloob' (Enlightener of the Heart). My husband has translated for me, occasionally, portions of this valuable work, which bears a striking similarity to our Holy Scriptures, though collected after a different manner; I have acquired, by this means, a more intimate acquaintance with the general character of the Mussulmaun's belief. This book contains all the prophets' lives, at every age of the world. It was compiled by Mahumud Baakur, first in Arabic, and afterwards translated by him into the Persian language, for the benefit of the public; and is of great antiquity--I cannot now ascertain the exact date.
The Mussulmaun belief on the subject of the resurrection is, 'When the fulness of time cometh, of which no man knoweth, then shall the earth be destroyed by fire--and after this will be the resurrection of the dead'.
The branches emanating from the roots of the Mussulmaun faith will require further explanation which shall follow in due course. I will in this letter merely add what is meant by the Bridge of Sirraat, the Scales, and Looking into the Book as noted in the burial service.
'The Bridge of Sirraat', they understand, is to be passed over by every person in their passage to eternity, and is represented sharp as the keenest sword. The righteous will be gifted with power to pass over with the rapidity of lightning, neither harm nor inconvenience will attend them on the passage. The wicked, on the contrary, will be without help, and must be many times injured and cut down in the attempt. An idea has crept into the minds of some, that whoever offers up to God, at different periods of his life, such animals as are deemed clean and fitting for sacrifice, the same number and kind, on their day of passing Sirraat, shall be in readiness to assist them on the passage over.
On this supposition is grounded the object of princes and nobles in India offering camels in sacrifice on the day of Buckrah Eade. This event answers our Scripture account of Abraham's offering, but the Mussulmauns say, the son of Abraham so offered was Ishmael, and not Isaac. I have disputed the point with some of their learned men, and brought them to search through their authorities; in some one or two there is a doubt as to which was the son offered, but the general writers and most of the Mussulmauns themselves believe Ishmael was the offering made by Abraham.
'The Scales are true;' the Mussulmauns believe, that on the day of judgment, the good and the bad deeds of every mortal will be submitted to the scales prepared in Heaven for that purpose.
'Looking into the Book is true;' the Mussulmauns believe that every human being from their birth is attended by two angels, one resting on the right shoulder the other on the left, continually; their business is to register every action of the individual they attend; when a good action is to be recorded, they beseech the Almighty in His mercy to keep the person in the good and perfect way; when evil ways are to be registered, they mourn with intercessions to God that His mercy may be extended, by granting them repentant hearts, and then, His forgiveness. Thus they explain 'Looking into the Book is true', that whatever is contained in this book will be looked into on the day of judgment, and by their deeds therein registered shall they be judged.
In the 'Hyaatool Kaaloob' is to be found the lives of the Emaums, from which is gleaned the following remarks:--
The Emaum Mhidhie was an orphan at nine years old. Alrouschid, the King of Bagdad, advised by his wicked minister, resolved on destroying this boy (the last of the Emaums), fearing as he grew into favour with the people, that the power of his sovereignty would decrease.
The King sent certain soldiers to seize Mhidhie, who was at prayers in an inner room when they arrived. The soldiers demanded and were refused admittance they then forced an entrance and proceeded to the room in which the Emaum was supposed to be at prayers, they discovered him immersed to the waist in a tank of water; the soldiers desired him to get out of the water and surrender himself, he continued repeating his prayer, and appeared to take no notice of the men nor their demand. After some deliberations amongst the soldiers, they thought the water was too shallow to endanger their lives, and one entered the tank intending to take the Emaum prisoner, he sank instantly to rise no more, a second followed who shared the same fate; and the rest, deterred by the example of their brother soldiers, fled from the place, to report the failure of their plan to the King at Bagdad.
This writer reports that Emaum Mhidhie was secretly conveyed away, supposed by the interposition of Divine Providence, and was not again seen, to be recognized, on earth; yet it is believed he still lives and will remain for the fulfilment of that prophecy which sayeth: --'When Mecca is filled with Christian people Emaum Mhidhie will appear, to draw men to the true faith; and then also, Jesus Christ will descend from heaven to Mecca, there will be great slaughter amongst men; after which there will be but one faith--and then shall there be perfect peace and happiness over all the world.'
The Mussulmauns of the present age discourse much on the subject of that prophecy--particularly during the contest between the Greeks and Turks, of which however they had no very correct information, yet they fancied the time must be fast approaching, by these leading events, to the fuller accomplishment; often, when in conversation with the most religious men of the country, I have heard them declare it as their firm belief that the time was fast approaching when there should be but one mind amongst all men. 'There is but little more to finish;' 'The time draws near;' are expressions of the Mussulmauns' belief, when discoursing of the period anticipated, as prophesied in their sacred writings; --so persuaded are they of the nearness of that time. In relating the substance of my last serious conversation with the devout Meer Hadjee Shaah, I shall disclose the real sentiments of most, if not every religious reflecting, true Mussulmaun of his sect in India.
Meer Hadjee Shaah delighted in religious conversations; it was his happiest time when, in the quiet of night, the Meer, his son, translated, as I read, the Holy Bible to him. We have often been thus engaged until one or two, and even to a later hour in the morning; he remembered all he heard, and drew comparisons, in his own mind, between the two authorities of sacred writings--the Khoraun and Bible; the one he had studied through his long life, the other, he was now equally satisfied, contained the word of God; he received them both, and as the 'two witnesses' of God. The last serious conversation I had with him, was a very few days before his death; he was then nearly in as good health as he had been for the last year; his great age had weakened his frame, but he walked about the grounds with his staff, as erect as when I first saw him, and evinced nothing in his general manner that could excite a suspicion that his hours had so nearly run their course.
We had been talking of the time when peace on earth should be universal; 'My time, dear baittie (daughter), is drawing to a quick conclusion. You may live to see the events foretold, I shall be in my grave; but remember, I tell you now, though I am dead, yet when Jesus Christ returns to earth, at His coming, I shall rise again from my grave; and I shall be with Him, and with Emaum Mhidhie also.'
This was the substance of his last serious conversation with me, and within one short week he was removed from those who loved to hear his voice; but he still lives in the memory of many, and those who knew his worth are reconciled by reflecting on the 'joy that awaits the righteous'.
'Other sheep I have, which are
this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and
shall be one fold, and one shepherd.' Also, 'In My Father's house are
mansions'. These were particularly pleasing passages to him, and often
referred to in our scriptural conversations.
 The Shi'ahs only wipe or
feet, instead of washing them, as do the Sunnis. In the standing
(qiyam) in prayer, the Sunnis place the right hand over the left
below the navel; the Shi'ahs keep their hands hanging on both sides of
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