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Observations on the Mussulmauns of India by Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali

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witnessed the benefit of this exercise by the happiest results, in many
such cases.

The Khoraun, it is commanded, shall be read. A person perhaps dies before
he has been awakened to a love of sacred things; his friends therefore
engage readers to attend his grave, and there to read the Khoraun for the
benefit of the departed soul.[4]

They have a firm belief in the efficacy of prayer by proxy; and the view
they have of departed spirits is still more singular. They believe the
soul hovers over the body in the grave for some time, and that the body is
so far animated, as to be sensible of what is passing; as when the Maulvee
is repeating the service, the angels visit in the grave, or when the
Khoraun is read; hence the belief in the efficacy of prayer and reading as
substitutes for neglected or omitted duties whilst on earth. There are in
all the mosques men retained to do the requisite service there,[5] that is,
to keep it clean, and to prevent any thing that could pollute the
sanctuary from entering; to call at the stated hours for Namaaz, with a
loud voice, so that all the neighbourhood may hear and go to prayers; he
mounts the minaret as the hour is striking, and pronounces, 'Allah wo
uckbaar!' 'Mahumudoon Russool Allah!'[6]--God alone is true! Mahumud is
God's Prophet!--with a voice, the extent of which can only be imagined by
those who have heard it; this summons is repeated many times over.

The mosque is open day and night for all who choose to enter for the
purpose of prayer. The Mussulmauns, however, in their prayer-services are
not restricted to the mosques; all places are deemed holy where no unclean
animal has been to defile the spot, as dogs or swine, nor any idol been
set up for worship. The person coming to Namaaz must not have contaminated
himself by touching the dead, or any other thing accounted unclean, until
he has bathed his whole body and changed his clothes. This resembles the
Mosaic law.

Ablutions are regarded as essentially necessary: if any one is ill, and to
use water would be dangerous, or if there be no water to be found where
the Mussulmaun is about to pray, there is an allowed substitute, merely to
rub the hands, feet, knees, and head with the dry dust of clay, and this
is counted to them for ablutions. Thus prepared, the devotee spreads his
prayer-carpet[7] (generally of fine matting) in the most convenient place
to himself, if not in the mosque;--perhaps under a tree, in the verandah,
or in a room, no matter where, taking care, under all circumstances, that
the carpet is spread to face the Kaabah (Holy House at Mecca).

At the commencement of his prayers, he stands erect, his hands lifted up,
the palms held out towards heaven, where the eyes are also turned whilst
expressing adoration and praise to God. This ended, he prostrates himself
before the Almighty, his forehead touching the ground; the form of words
here used expresses the unworthiness of the creature permitted to approach
and worship the Creator; again he stands to repeat the glorious
perfections of God; he then kneels in worship and prayer, after which
prostrations are resumed, &c. In the performance of some of the services
they prostrate five times, standing up and kneeling an equal number of
times; the shortest services have three, and all the prayers and praises
are arranged in Arabic,--that most expressive language,--which to
translate, they say, is to corrupt the meaning of the prayers. For this
reason the Khoraun is not allowed in any other than the original language;
and for the benefit of the unlearned in Arabic, it is commented upon,
passage by passage, in the Persian language.

The mosques are all erected on one plan; the entrance to the outer court
is secured by a gate or door always on the latch, without locks, bars, or
bolts; in the paved yard a tank or reservoir for bathing or ablutions is
usually provided. The mosque itself is square, with a dome and two
minarets; the side next the court-yard is the entrance, and generally this
front is entirely open; the back of the mosque faces Mecca, in which
direction the prayer must be offered to be effectual. These houses of
prayer are generally kept clean and neat, but not the slightest ornament
allowed within the walls; the floor is matted, and a plain wooden mhembur
(pulpit) is provided. Shoes never enter within the precincts of the mosque;
'Put off thy shoes' is strictly observed by Mussulmauns in all sacred
places--a man praying with shoes on his feet would be accounted mad or a

The Sabbath of the Mussulmauns is kept on Friday, commencing on the
preceding night, after the manner of the Jews, only with the difference of
the day.[9]

As a religious rest, the Sabbath is but partially observed with
Mussulmauns. The Soonies, I have remarked, pay much more attention to its
institutions than the Sheahs; but with either sect, the day is less
strictly kept, than might have been expected from people who really seem
to make religion their study, and the great business of their lives. Both
sects have extra prayers for the day besides the usual Namaaz, which, the
religious people perform with, great punctuality, whether they carry their
devotions to the mosque, or offer their prayers in due form in their own
abode. On the Sabbath they make it a point to bathe and change their
apparel; the public offices are closed, and the shops partially shut until
mid-day; the rulers,--as Kings or Nuwaubs,--distinguish the day by not
receiving their courtiers and the public visitors, as on other days.
Charitable donations are likewise more bountifully dispensed from the rich
to the poor on Friday.

These observances serve to convince us that they believe in the
constituted Sabbath; still there is not that strict respect for the holy
day which could satisfy the scrupulous feelings of a Christian; the
servants are quite as much employed on Friday as on any other day;--the
dhurzie[10] (tailor), dhobhie[11] (washerman), and indeed the whole
establishment of servants and slaves, male and female, find their work
undiminished on the Sabbath. The ladies amuse themselves with cards or
dice, the singing women even are quite as much in request as on other days;
and all the amusements of life are indulged in without once seeming to
suspect that they are disobeying the law of God, or infringing on their
actual duties. Indeed, I believe they would keep the day strictly, if they
thought doing so was a necessary duty: but I have often observed, that as
Friday is one of their 'fortunate days', works of any importance are
commenced on this day;--whether it be building a house,--planting a garden
or field,--writing a book,--negotiating a marriage,--going a
journey,--making a garment, or any other business of this life which they
wish should prosper. With them, therefore, the day of rest is made one of
the busiest in the calendar; but I must do them the justice to say, that
they believe their hearts are more pure after the ablutions and prayers
have been performed. And that as nothing, however trifling or important,
according to their praiseworthy ideas, should ever be commenced without
being first dedicated to God,--from whose mercy they implore aid and
blessings on the labour of their hands,--they set apart Friday for
commencing whatever business they are anxious should prosper. This was the
excuse made by the pious Meer Hadjee Shaah.

Mahumud's biographers notice in many instances the strict observance of
the Sabbath, at the period in which he flourished; they also say he
selected Friday to be observed as the Mussulmaun Sabbath in distinction
from the Jews, who it would seem were jealous of Mahumud's teaching, and
annoyed both him and his followers in every way they could possibly devise.
And the Khoraun commentators, on the subject of Mahumud's mission, declare,
when speaking of the place to which the Mussulmaun bow in prayer, 'That
when Mahumud first commenced his task of teaching the ignorant Arabians to
forsake their idol worship, and to turn to the only true God, he was often
reviled and insulted by the Jews; who even ridiculed the presumption of
the Mussulmauns in daring to bow down, in their worship, towards Jerusalem,
in the same direction with them. Mahumud was sadly perplexed whether to
abstain or continue the practice, as he was unwilling to offend the Jews:
in this trial he was visited by the angel Gabriel, who brought the
following command to him from God:--

'Turn from Jerusalem; and when thou bowest down to Me, face that Holy
House of Abraham, the place of sacrifice: that shall be thy Kiblaah, O

Kiblaah is the point to which men bow in worship.[12] Kaabah is the 'Holy
House' where Abraham's sacrifice was offered. Mecca is the city or tract
of country surrounding the house.

Thus they will say: 'I am making my pilgrimage to Mecca, to visit the
Kaabah, which in my Namaaz, has been my Kiblaah when worshipping my God.'

A Commentator on the Khoraun writes, in allusion to the prevailing
worldly-minded men of his day, the following expressive definition of the
objects most worshipped by them, and concludes with the one only Kiblaah
deserving men's attention.

'The Sovereign's Kiblaah is His well-ornamented crown.'

'The Sensualist's Kiblaah, The gratification of his appetites.'

'The Lover's Kiblaah, The mistress of his heart.'

'The Miser's Kiblaah, His hoards of gold and silver.'

'The Ambitious Man's Kiblaah, This world's honours and possessions.'

'The mere Professor's Kiblaah, The arch of the Holy House.'


'The Righteous Man's Kiblaah, The pure love of God,--which may all men
learn and practise.'

The Mussulmaun Faith directs them to believe, not only in the prophets and
their writings, but also that they are intercessors at the throne of grace;
for this reason Mahumud taught his followers to call on God to hear them
for the sake of,--

'1st. Adam, Suffee Ali ("the Pure" is the nearest possible translation).'

'2nd. Noah, the Prophet of God.'

'3rd. Abraham, the Friend of God.'

'4th. Moses, who Conversed with God.'

'5th. Jesus, the Soul of God.'

'6th. Mahumud, the Prophet of God.'[13]

Those persons who are devout in the exercise of their religious duties day
by day, in the concluding part of the morning Namaaz strictly observe the
practice of Mahumud and the Emaums, in the prayers of intercession; and
the 'Salaam-oon-ali Khoom',[14] (peace or rest be with thee) O Adam Suffee
Ali! and to thee, O Noah, the Prophet of God! and to thee, O Abraham! &c.
&c. going through the line in the manner and rotation above-described,
concluding with the several Emaums, twelve in number (as in their Creed).

It will be seen by this, that they have reverence for all who came from
God, to teach mankind His will. They believe also, that the Holy Prophets
are sensible of the respect paid to them by existing mortals, as also when
on earth they knew what was in the hearts of those men they conversed with.
I have the honour to be acquainted with a lady of the Mussulmaun Religion,
who lives in accordance with the Faith she professes. There was a period
in her life, within my recollection, when she had very severe trials of a
domestic nature. She trusted in God for relief, and followed in the way
she had been instructed, keeping fasts and holy days; testifying her
respect for the prophets, by observing those days for extra prayer and
giving alms, which the Khoraun and commentaries represent as worthy to be
done, by the devout Mussulmauns.

Amongst the number of days strictly observed by this pious lady during her
troubles, was the Nativity of Jesus Christ, for whose sake she fed the
hungry, clothed the naked, and gave alms to the necessitous. I was the
more delighted when first hearing of this circumstance, because I had
judged of the Mussulmaun faith by common report, and fancied they rejected,
with the Jews, our Redeemer having come. They, on the contrary, believe,
according to their Prophet's words, 'that He was born of the Virgin Mary;
that He worked miracles; that He ascended after His earthly commission had
ceased, to the seventh heaven; that He will again visit the earth (when
their Emaum Mhidhie will also appear), to cleanse the world of its corrupt
wickedness, when all men shall live in peace, and but one faith shall
prevail, in the worship of the true God'.

The Mussulmaun work, 'Hyaatool Kaloob' (which I have so often referred to),
contains, with the lives of all the prophets, the Life of Jesus Christ,
His acts, and the Ungeel[15] (Gospel). The Gospel they have is in many
things different from ours; it is not formed into books by the apostles,
neither are the miracles united with the Gospel, but are detailed as the
acts of Christ Jesus. What they understand by the Ungeel, is, 'the Word of
God by the mouth of Jesus';--for instance, the Sermon on the Mount, or, in
other words, the precepts of Jesus. I am indebted to the Meer for this

The Mussulmauns say, 'All power belongs to God.--Who would dare dispute
the miracle of Christ's birth? Is there any thing difficult with God? God
first formed Adam from the dust; and by His word all things were created.
Is there any thing too great for His power? Let no man, then, dispute the
birth of Christ by a pure Virgin.' They believe that Jesus Christ was the
Prophet of God, but they believe not that He is God; and they deem all who
thus declare Christ to be God, as unfaithful both to God and to Christ.

I have said the Mussulmauns of each sect have extra prayers, beside the
Namaaz, or daily services of prayer. I suppose there are a greater variety
of prayers amongst these people than with those of any other religion.
Very few, if any, of the devout men, in the early ages of their religion,
have omitted to leave behind them some testimony of their regard for
posterity in the form of 'prayers', dictating the words most likely to
lead the heart of the creature to the worship of the Creator; and also
directions how to pray for any particular object they may desire to
accomplish by the aid of God, in whom they are instructed and believe the
fulness of power, as of glory, ever was, is, and will be to all eternity.

If the Mussulmaun suffers by persecution, by sickness, by loss of property,
or any other distress of mind or body, he applies himself to the
particular prayer of a favourite Emaum, or holy scribe, suited to his
exact case. I cannot do better here than copy the translation my husband
has made of the leading causes for the use of that prayer called
'Daaood's[16] (David's) Mother's Prayer', in which I have known so many
people to be engaged, when under difficulties, at the appointed period,
viz. the fifteenth day of the month Rujub. The prayer itself occupies
about sixteen closely written pages, and the person intending to make use
of it, is expected to bathe and fast, as commanded by Mahumud, who
instructed his followers in this prayer, which was then called 'The
Opening of Difficulties',[17] afterwards, and to the present day 'David's
Mother's Prayer', by reason of a miraculous occurrence which followed her
having fulfilled the task of fasting, preparation, and the prayer alluded

'A very poor woman had been engaged in the family of the Emaum Jaffur
Saadick,[18] as wet-nurse to his son; she was much respected in the family,
who wished to have retained her with them, when the child was weaned; but
she would return to her own village, where her son was living, at some
distance from the city of Koofah.

'Her son, named Daaood, grew up under her maternal care, and proved the
great comfort and solace of her life, by his dutiful and affectionate
bearing towards her. At that period the reigning King of Arabia was a most
cruel man, and an idolater; he persecuted all the professors of the "True
Faith" whenever they came within his reach, with the most barbarous

'One day, at an early hour, Daaood's mother presented herself at the house
of the Emaum, in great distress of mind, and related the heavy affliction
which had befallen her, in the loss of her dearly loved son (then a fine
youth), who had been decoyed by the wicked emissaries of the King, for the
purpose, it was feared, of immolation--as it was known to be his custom,
when, laying the foundation of a building, to deposit living victims of
the Mussulmaun faith beneath it. The poor woman had no hope her eyes would
ever again be blessed with the sight of her fondly-loved son, and still
more agonizing were her fears, that his protracted sufferings would be of
the same terrible description with numbers of the faithful who had fallen
into the hands of that wretched heathen King.

'Her friends in the Emaum's family grieved over the sad affliction with
which their favourite had been visited. The Emaum strove to comfort her,
and proposed that she should perform the prayer in which Mahumud had
instructed his followers for "The Opening of Difficulties". "Alas!"
replied the woman, "poor ignorant that I am, how shall I repeat that
prayer; I cannot read: knowest thou not, my Emaum, that I am not
acquainted with letters?" "But I will teach you the prayer," answered the
Emaum; "you shall repeat it after me, and by diligence you will acquire it
perfectly by that day, on which our Prophet commanded his followers to
perform the fast and offer this prayer, that God might be pleased to
remove their calamities."

'The poor woman obeyed all the injunctions and advice of the Emaum Jaffur
Saadick punctually; acquired, by her diligence, the words of the prayer;
strictly observed the preparation by fast; and, on the fifteenth "day of
Rujub", the prayer was duly performed, with sincere devotion and perfect
faith in God's power, and His infinite mercy.

'In the mean time, it appears, the King having been much troubled in a
dream, he was warned to release his prisoner from captivity without delay,
at the peril of destruction to himself and all he possessed. The warning
dream presented him with a view of the gulf to which he was condemned, if
he delayed the release of Daaood from his confinement. The person of the
youth was so clearly represented to the King in his dream, that there
could be no possible mistake in the particular captive to be freed, out of
the many he held in bondage. The King awakening from his troubled sleep,
demanded of his attendants where the young man was confined; and learning
from the chief officer of his court that Daaood was sent to a distant
place, to be the offering buried under the foundation of a house, erecting
by his command: the swiftest camels were ordered immediately, to convey
messengers with two bags of gold, and the King's mandate, peremptorily
ordering the release of the youth, if happily he yet existed; and if the
building was proceeding with, the superintendent was cautioned to pull it
down with the utmost care and dispatch, so that nothing should be omitted
which could be done to preserve that life now so dear to the hopes of the

'The messengers reached the place on the third day after Daaood had been
immured in the foundation of the building. Small, indeed, were the hopes
that the King's desires would be gratified. The builder, however, more
humane than his employer, had so raised the work round the person of
Daaood, as to leave him unhurt by its pressure, and having left a small
aperture for air, his life was preserved;--the masonry being removed
promptly, and with caution, the youth was discovered not only alive, but
even uninjured by the confinement. The courier mounted the boy on the
camel, with the present of gold contained in two bags, and conveyed Daaood,
without loss of time, to his mother's abode.

'All the particulars having undergone due investigation, it was clearly
proved that it was on that very day when the poor woman was occupied in
her fast and prayer, that her son Daaood was released from the foundation
of the King's house and restored to his home. From this time forward the
prayer of "Opening Difficulties" was denominated "Or of Daaood's Mother".'

Turning over my collection of curiosities for the story of Daaood's Mother,
which the Meer translated for me many years since, I met with an ancient
anecdote which. I received from the same dear revered friend I must often
quote as my author when I am detailing the particulars of things which I
have heard and not seen,--Meer Hadjee Shaah,--who tells me he has found
the following anecdote in the 'Commentary on The History of Moses'.--It is
translated by my husband.

'When Huzerut[19] Moosa (Moses), "to whose spirit be peace!" was on earth,
there lived near him a poor yet remarkably religious man, who had for many
years supported himself and his wife by the daily occupation of cutting
wood for his richer neighbours; four small copper coins (equivalent to our
halfpence) proved the reward of his toil, which at best afforded the poor
couple but a scanty meal after his day's exertions.

'The prophet Moosa passed the Woodcutter one morning, who accosted him
with "O Moosa! Prophet of the Most High; behold I labour each day for my
coarse and scanty meal; may it please thee, O Huzerut! to make a petition
for me to our gracious God, that He may in His mercy grant me at once the
whole supply for my remaining years, so that I shall enjoy one day of
earthly happiness, and then, with my wife, be transferred to the place of
eternal rest". Moosa promised and made the required petition; his prayer
was answered from Mount Tor, thus:--

'"This man's life is long, O Moses! nevertheless, if he be willing to
surrender life when his supply is exhausted, tell him thy prayer is heard,
the petition accepted, and the whole amount shall be found beneath his
jhaawn namaaz[20] (prayer-carpet) after his early prayers."

'The Woodcutter was satisfied when Moosa told him the result of his
petition, and when the first duties of the morning were concluded, he
failed not in looking for the promised remittance, where, to his surprise,
he found a heap of silver coins. Calling his wife, the Woodcutter told her
what he had required of the Lord through his Holy Prophet Moosa; pointing
to the result, they both agreed it was very good to enjoy a short life of
happiness on earth and depart in peace; although they could not help again
and again recurring to the number of years on earth they had thus
sacrificed. "We will make as many hearts rejoice as this the Lord's gift
will admit," they both agreed, "and thus we shall secure in our future
state the blessed abode promised to those who fulfil the commands of God
in this, since to-morrow our term of life must close."

'The day was spent in providing and preparing provisions for the meal. The
whole sum was expended on the best sorts of food, and the poor made
acquainted with the rich treat the Woodcutter and his wife were cooking
for their benefit. The food was cooked for the indigent, and allotments
made to each hungry applicant, reserving for themselves one good
substantial meal, to be eaten only when the poor were all served and
satisfied. It happened at the very moment they were seated to enjoy this
their last meal, as they believed, a voice was heard, "O friend! I have
heard of your feast,--I am late, yet may it be that you have a little to
spare, for I am hungry to my very heart. The blessing of God be on him who
relieves my present sufferings from hunger!" The Woodcutter and his wife
agreed that it would be much, better for them to go to heaven with half a
bellyful, than leave one fellow-creature on earth famishing for a meal;
they, therefore, determined on sharing their own portion with him who had
none, and he went away from them rejoicing. "Now," said the happy pair,
"we shall eat our half-share with unmixed delight, and with thankful
hearts. By to-morrow eve we shall be transferred to paradise."

'They had scarcely raised the savoury food to their opening mouths, when a
voice of melancholy bewailing arrested their attention, and stayed the
hands already charged with food;--a poor wretched creature, who had not
tasted food for two whole days, moaned his piteous tale in accents that
drew tears from the Woodcutter and his wife--their eyes met and the
sympathy was mutual; they were more willing to depart for heaven without
the promised benefit of one earthly enjoyment, than suffer the hungry
creature to die from want of that meal they had before them. The dish was
promptly tendered to the bewailing subject, and the Woodcutter and his
wife consoled each other by thinking that, as their time of departure was
now so near at hand, the temporary enjoyment of a meal was not worth one
moment's consideration. "To-morrow we die, then of what consequence to us
whether we depart with full or empty stomachs!" And now their thoughts
were set on the place of eternal rest. They slept, and arose to their
morning orisons with hearts resting humbly on their God, in the fullest
expectation that this was their last day on earth: the prayer was
concluded, and the Woodcutter in the act of rolling up his carpet, on
which he had bowed with gratitude, reverence, and love to his Creator,
when he perceived a fresh heap of silver on the floor;--he could scarcely
believe it was not a dream. "How wonderful art Thou, O God!" cried the
poor Woodcutter; "this is Thy bounteous gift that I may indeed enjoy one
day before I quit this earth." And when Moosa came to him, he (Moosa) was
satisfied with the goodness and power of God; but he retired again to the
Mount to inquire of God the cause of the Woodcutter's respite. The reply
given to Moosa was, "That man has faithfully applied the wealth given in
answer to his petition. He is worthy to live out his numbered years on
earth, who, receiving My bounty, thought not of his own enjoyments whilst
his fellow men had wants he could supply." And to the end of the
Woodcutter's long life, God's bounty lessened not in substance; neither
did the pious man relax in his charitable duties of sharing with the
indigent all that he had, and with the same disregard to his own

I have but little to add, as regards the manner of worship amongst my
Mussulmaun acquaintance; but here I cannot omit remarking, that the women
are devout in their prayers and strict in their observance of ordinances.
That they are not more generally educated is much to be regretted; this,
however, is their misfortune, not their fault. The Mussulmaun faith does
not exclude the females from a participation in the Eternal world,[21]--as
has so often been assorted by people who could not have known them,--and
the good Mussulmaun proves it by his instruction of the females under his
control in the doctrines of Mahumud, and who he believes to be as much
dependent on him for guidance on the road to heaven, as for personal
protection from want or worldly dangers.

The pure life of Fatima, Mahumud's only daughter, is greatly esteemed as
an example of female excellence, whom they strive to imitate as much as
possible, as well in religious as in moral or domestic duties. They are
zealous to fulfil all the ordinances of their particular faith,--and I
have had the best possible opportunity of studying their
character,--devotion to God being the foundation on which every principal
action of their lives seems to rest.

In my delineation of character, whether male or female, I must not be
supposed to mean the whole mass of the Mussulmaun population. There are
good and bad of every class or profession of people; it has been my good
fortune to be an inmate with the pious of that faith, and from their
practice I have been aided in acquiring a knowledge of what constitutes a
true disciple of Mahumud.

[1] The writer mixes up the Persian and Arabic names of the hours of
prayer. The proper names, according to this list, are: i,
Namaz-i-Subh, from dawn to sunrise; ii, Salatu'l-Zuhr, when the
sun has begun to decline; iii, Salatu'l 'Asr, midway between
Nos. ii and iv; iv, Sala tu'l-Maghrib, a few minutes after sunset;
v, Salatu'l 'Isha, when night has closed in.

[2] _Namaz-i-Tahajjid_, the prayer after midnight.

[3] _Wazifah_, 'a daily ration of food', a term used for the daily
lesson or portion of the _Koran_ read by devout Musalmans. The
_Koran_ is divided into thirty lessons (_siparah_) for use
during the month Ramazan.

[4] Special readers (_muqri_) of the _Koran_ are needed, owing to
the want of vowels in the Arabic character (Sale, _Preliminary
Discourse_, 47). Readers are often employed to recite the _Koran_
over a corpse on the way to Karbala.

[5] Known as Khadim.

[6] _Allahu akbar ... Muhammadan rasulu'llah._ In English the
entire call runs: 'Allah is most great (four times), I testify that
there is no God but Allah (twice), I testify that Muhammad is the
Apostle of Allah (twice), Come to prayer (twice), Come to salvation
(twice), Allah is most great (twice), There is no God but Allah!'

[7] Known as _Ja'e-namaz,_ 'place of prayer'.

[8] See p. 27.

[9] The _Salatu'l-Juma'_, the Friday prayer, is obligatory. Friday was
appointed a Sabbath to distinguish Musalmans from Jews and

[10] _Darzi_.

[11] _Dhobi_.

[12] See p. 74.

[13] The correct titles are as follows: Adam, _Safiyu'llah,_ 'The
Chosen One of God'; Noah, _Nabiyu'llah_, 'The Prophet of God';
Abraham, _Khalilu'llah_, 'The Friend of God'; Moses,
_Kalimu'llah_, 'He that spoke with God'; Jesus, _Ruhu'llah_,
'A Spirit from God'; Muhammad, _Rasulu 'Illah,_ 'The Prophet of

[14] _Salam-'alai-kum._

[15] _Injil, [Greek: e'uaggelion]_, the Gospel, as opposed to
_taurat_, the Pentateuch.

[16] Daud.

[17] The Fatiha, or opening chapter of the _Koran_, used like the

[18] Ja'afar as-Sadiq.

[19] _Hazrat_, 'Reverend', or 'Superior'.

[20] _Ja'e-namaz_, known also as _sajjadah_, or _musalla_.

[21] The assertion that the Koran teaches that women have no souls is
incorrect. See the texts collected by Hughes, _Dictionary of Islam_,
pp. 677 ff.


The Fast of Rumzaun.--Motives for its strict observance.--Its
commencement and duration.--Sentiments of Meer Hadjee Shaah on the
duty of fasting.--Adherence of the females to the observing this
fast.--How first broken.--Devout persons extend the term to forty
days.--Children permitted to try their zeal.--Calamitous effects of the
experiment.--Exemptions from this duty.--Joyful termination of the
fast.--Celebration of Eade on the last day.--The Nuzza.--Nautchwomen
and Domenie.--Surprise of the Natives at European dancing.--Remarks on
their Music.--Anecdotes of Fatima.--The Chuckee.

'The poor man fasts, because he wanteth meat;
The sick man fasts, because he cannot eat.
The miser fasts, with greedy mind, to spare;
The glutton fasts, to eat a greater share.
The hypocrite, he fasts to seem more holy;
The righteous man, to punish sinful folly.'

The secret motive of the heart, man cannot fathom in his neighbour's deeds.
There are some actions so praiseworthy in themselves, that the charitably
disposed will pass over the probable actuating motive, when looking only
to the fair example. I have, however, reason to think that the Mussulmauns
generally, in fulfilling the commanded fast of Rumzaun, have an
unexceptionable motive. They are taught by their Lawgiver, that the due
performance of this rigid fast is an acceptable service to God the Creator,
from man the creature: they believe this, and therefore they fast?

Amongst the well-informed it is persevered in as a duty delightful to be
permitted to perform; the ignorant take some merit to themselves in having
faithfully observed the command; yet all the fasting population are
actuated more or less by the same motive,---the desire to please God by
fulfilling His commands, delivered to them by their acknowledged Prophet.

The severity of a Mussulmaun's fast can alone be understood by those who
have made the trial, as I frequently have, of the strict rules of
abstinence which they observe; and with the additional privations to be
endured at the period of the hottest months and the longest days in the
same climate, as will sometimes be the case with all their movable fasts.

The Mussulmaun fast commences when the first streak of light borders the
Eastern horizon, and continues until the stars are clearly discerned in
the heavens. During this period not the slightest particle of food, not
one single drop of water, or any other liquid, passes the lips; the hookha,
even, is disallowed during the continuance of the fast, which of itself
forms not only a luxury of great value, but an excellent antidote to

Amongst the really religious Mussulmauns the day is passed in occasional
prayer, besides the usual Namaaz, reading the Khoraun, or the Lives of the
Prophets. I have witnessed some, in their happy employment of these
fatiguing days, who evinced even greater animation in their conversation
than at other times; towards the decline of a day, when the thermometer
has stood at eighty-nine in the shade of a closed house, they have looked
a little anxious for the stars appearing, but,--to their credit be it
told,--without the slightest symptom of impatience or fretfulness at the
tardy approach of evening.

My revered friend, Meer Hadjee Shaah, always told me that the great secret
of a fast, to be beneficial, was to employ time well, which benefited both
soul and body; employment suited to the object of the fast being the best
possible alleviation to the fatigue of fasting. He adds, if the temper be
soured either by the abstinence or the petty ills of life, the good
effects of the fast are gone with the ruffled spirit, and that the person
thus disturbed had much better break his fast, since it ceases to be of
any value in the sight of Him to whom the service is dedicated; the
institution of the fast having for its object to render men more humble,
more obedient to their God; all dissensions must be forgotten; all vicious
pursuits abandoned, to render the service of a fast an acceptable offering
to God.

In the zeenahnah, the females fast with zealous rigidness; and those who
have not the happiness to possess a knowledge of books, or a husband or
father disposed to read to them, will still find the benefit of employment
in their gold embroidery of bags and trimmings, or other ornamental
needle-work; some will listen to the Khaaunie[1] (tales), related by their
attendants; others will overlook, and even assist in the preparations
going forward for opening the fast. Ladies of the first quality do not
think it a degradation to assist in the cooking of choice dishes. It is
one of the highest favours a lady can confer on her friends, when she
sends a tray of delicate viands cooked by her own hands. So that with the
prayers, usual and occasional, the daily nap of two hours, indulged in
throughout the year, occupation is made to fill up the day between dawn
and evening; and they bear the fatigue with praiseworthy fortitude. Those
who are acquainted with letters, or can afford to maintain hired readers,
pass this month of trials in the happiest manner.

The fast is first broken by a cooling draught called tundhie[2]; the same
draught is usually resorted to in attacks of fever. The tundhie is
composed of the seeds of lettuce, cucumber, and melon, with coriander, all
well pounded and diluted with cold water, and then strained through muslin,
to which is added rose-water, sugar, syrup of pomegranate, and kurah[3] (a
pleasant-flavoured distilled water from the blossom of a species of aloe).
This cooling draught is drank by basins' full amongst the Rozedhaars[4]
(fasters), and it is generally prepared in the zeenahnah apartments for
the whole establishment, male and female. Some of the aged and more
delicate people break their fast with the juice of spinach[5] only, others
choose a cup of boiling water to sip from. My aged friend, Meer Hadjee
Shaah, has acquired a taste for tea, by partaking of it so often with me;
and with this he has broken his fast for several years, as he says, with
the most comforting sensations to himself. I have seen some people take a
small quantity of salt in the first instance, preparatory to a draught of
any kind of liquid. Without some such prelude to a meal, after the day's
fast, the most serious consequences are to be apprehended.

After indulging freely in the simple liquids, and deriving great benefit
and comfort from a hookha, the appetite for food is generally stayed for
some time: many persons prefer a rest of two hours before they can
conveniently touch the food prepared for them, and even then, seldom eat
in the same proportion as they do at other meals. Many suffice themselves
with the one meal, and indulge in that very sparingly. The servants and
labouring classes, however, find a second meal urgently necessary, which
they are careful to take before the dawning day advances. In most families,
cold rice-milk is eaten at that early hour. Meer Hadjee Shaah, I have
before noticed, found tea to be the best antidote to extreme thirst, and
many are the times I have had the honour to present him with this beverage
at the third watch of the night, which he could enjoy without fear of the
first streaks of light on the horizon arriving before he had benefited by
this luxury.

The good things provided for dinner after the fast are (according to the
means of the party) of the best, and in all varieties; and from the
abundance prepared, a looker-on would pronounce a feast at hand; and so it
is, if to feed the hungry be a feast to the liberal-hearted bestower,
which with these people I have found to be a part and parcel of their
nature. They are instructed from their infancy to know all men as brothers
who are in any strait for food; and they are taught by the same code, that
for every gift of charity they dispense with a free good will, they shall
have the blessing and favour of their Creator abundantly in return. On the
present occasion, they cook choice viands to be distributed to the poor,
their fellow-labourers in the harvest; and in proportion to the number fed,
so are their expectations of blessings from the great Giver of all good,
in whose service it is performed. In my postscript you will find several
anecdotes of the daughter of Mahumud on the subject of charity.

When any one is prevented fulfilling the fast of Rumzaun in his own person
he is instructed to consider himself bound to provide food for opening the
fast of a certain number of poor men who are Rozedhaars. The general food
of the peasantry and lower orders of the people--bread and dhall[6]--is
deemed sufficient, if unable to afford anything better.

When any one dies without having duly observed the fast, pious relatives
engage some devout person to perform a month's fast, which they believe
will be accepted for the neglectful person. Many devout Mussulmauns extend
the fast from thirty to full forty days, by the example of Mahumud and his
family; and it is no unusual thing to meet with others who, in addition to
this month, fast every Thursday through the year; some very rigid persons
even fast the month preceding and the following month, as well as the
month of Rumzaun.

Some very young people (children we should call them in happy England) are
permitted to try their fasting powers, perhaps for a day or two during the
month of Rumzaun. The first fast of the noviciate is an event of no small
moment to the mother, and gives rise to a little festival in the zeenahnah;
the females of the family use every sort of encouragement to induce the
young zealot to persevere in the trial when once commenced, and many are
the preparations for the opening last with due eclat in their
circle--sending trays of the young person's good things to intimate
friends, in remembrance of the interesting event; and generally with a
parade of servants and music, when the child (I must have it so) belongs
to the nobility, or persons of consequence, who at the same time
distribute money and food to the poor.

These first fasts of the young must be severe trials, particularly in the
hot season. I have heard, it is no uncommon thing for the young sufferers
to sink under the fatigue, rather than break the fast they have had
courage to commence. The consolation to the parents in such a case would
be, that their child was the willing sacrifice, and had died 'in the road
of God', as all deaths occurring under performances of a known duty are

Within my recollection a distressing calamity of this nature occurred at
Lucknow, in a very respectable family. I did not know the party personally,
but it was the topic in all the houses I visited at that period. I made a
memorandum of the circumstance at the time, from which the following is

'Two children, a son and daughter of respectable parents, the eldest
thirteen and the youngest eleven years of age, were permitted to prove
their faith by the fast, on one of the days of Rumzaun; the parents,
anxious to honour their fidelity, expended a considerable sum of money in
the preparations for celebrating the event amongst their circle of friends.
Every delicacy was provided for opening their fast, and all sorts of
dainties prepared to suit the Epicurean palates of the Asiatics, who when
receiving the trays at night would know that this was the testimony of the
children's perseverance in that duty they all hold sacred.

'The children bore the trial well throughout the morning, and even until
the third watch of the day had passed, their firmness would have reflected
credit on people twice their age, making their first fast. After the third
watch, the day was oppressively hot, and the children evinced symptoms of
weariness and fatigue; they were advised to try and compose themselves to
sleep; this lulled them for a short time, but their thirst was more acute
when they awoke than before. The mother and her friends endeavoured to
divert their attention by amusing stories, praising their perseverance, &c.
The poor weak lady was anxious that they should persevere; as the day was
now so far gone, she did not like her children to lose the benefit of
their fast, nor the credit due to them for their forbearance. The children
endeavoured to support with patience the agony that bowed them down--they
fainted, and then the mother was almost frantic, blaming herself for
having encouraged them to prolong their fast against their strength. Cold
water was thrown over them; attempts were made to force water into their
mouths; but, alas! their tender throats were so swollen, that not a drop
passed beyond their mouths. They died within a few minutes of each other;
and the poor wretched parents were left childless through their own
weakness and mistaken zeal. The costly viands destined for the testimony
of these children's faith, it may be supposed, were served out to the
hungry mendicants as the first offerings dedicated to the now happy
spirits of immortality.'

This is a sad picture of the distressing event, but I have not clothed it
in the exaggerated garb some versions bore at the time the circumstance

There are some few who are exempt from the actual necessity of fasting
during Rumzaun; the sick, the aged, women giving nourishment to infants,
and those in expectation of adding to the members of the family, and very
young children, these are all commanded not to fast.[7] There is a
latitude granted to travellers also; but many a weary pilgrim whose heart
is bent heavenward will be found taking his rank amongst the Rozedhaars of
the time, without deeming he has any merit in refraining from the
privileges his code has conferred upon him; such men will fast whilst
their strength permits them to pursue their way.

Towards the last week of Rumzaun the haggard countenances and less
cheerful manners of the fasting multitude seem to increase, but they
seldom relax unless their health is likely to be much endangered by its

The conclusion of the month Rumzaun is celebrated as an Eade[8] (festival),
and, if not more splendid than any other in the Mussulmaun calendar, it is
one of the greatest heart-rejoicing days. It is a sort of thanksgiving day
amongst the devout people who have been permitted to accomplish the task;
and with the vulgar and ignorant, it is hailed with delight as the season
of merriment and good living--a sort of reward for their month's severe

The namaaz of the morning, and the prayer for Eade, commence with the dawn;
after which the early meal of Eade is looked forward to with some anxiety.
In every house the same dainties are provided with great exactness (for
they adhere to custom as to a law): plain boiled rice, with dhie[9] (sour
curd) and sugar, forms the first morning repast of this Eade; dried dates
are eaten with it (in remembrance of the Prophet's family, whose greatest
luxury was supposed to be the dates of Arabia).[10] A preparation of flour
(similar to our vermicelli)[11] eaten with cold milk and sugar, is amongst
the good things of this day, and trifling as it may appear, the indulgence
is so great to the native population, that they would consider themselves
unfortunate Rozedhaars, if they were not gratified, on this occasion, with
these simple emblems of long-used custom. The very same articles are in
request in Mussulmaun society, by this custom, from the King to the
meanest of his subjects.

The ladies' assemblies, on this Eade, are marked by all the amusements and
indulgences they can possibly invent or enjoy, in their secluded state.
Some receiving, others paying visits in covered conveyances; all doing
honour to the day by wearing their best jewellery and splendid dresses.
The zeenahnah rings with the festive songs and loud music, the cheerful
meeting of friends, the distribution of presents to dependants, and
remembrances to the poor; all is life and joy, cheerful bustle and
amusement, on this happy day of Eade, when the good lady of the mansion
sits in state to receive nuzzas from inferiors, and granting proofs of her
favour to others.

Nuzza[12] is an offering of money from inferiors to those who rank in
society above the person presenting; there is so much of etiquette
observed in Native manners, that a first visit to a superior is never made
without presenting a nuzza. When we arrived in India, an old servant of my
husband's family, named Muckabeg, was sent to meet us at Patna to escort
us to Lucknow; on entering our budgerow[13] he presented fourteen rupees
to me, which were laid on a folded handkerchief. I did not then understand
what was intended, and looked to the Meer for explanation; he told me to
accept Muckabeg's 'Nuzza'. I hesitated, remarking that it seemed a great
deal more than a man in his situation could afford to give away. My
husband silenced my scruples by observing, 'You will learn in good time
that these offerings are made to do you honour, together with the certain
anticipation of greater benefits in return; Muckabeg tenders this nuzza to
you, perhaps it is all the money he possesses, but he feels assured it
will be more than doubly repaid to him in the value of a khillaut[14]
(dress of honour) he expects from your hands to-day. He would have behaved
himself disrespectfully in appearing before you without a nuzza, and had
you declined accepting it, he would have thought that you were either
displeased with him, or did not approve of his coming.' This little
incident will perhaps explain the general nature of all the nuzzas better
than any other description I could offer.

Kings and Nuwaubs keep the festival in due form, seated on the throne or
musnud, to receive the congratulations and nuzzas of courtiers and
dependants, and presenting khillauts to ministers, officers of state, and
favourites. The gentlemen manage to pass the day in receiving and paying
visits, all in their several grades having some inferiors to honour them
in the presentation of offerings, and on whom they can confer favours and
benefits; feasting, music, and dancing-women, filling up the measure of
their enjoyments without even thinking of wine, or any substitute stronger
than such pure liquids as graced the feasts of the first inhabitants of
the world.

The Nautchwomen in the apartments of the gentlemen, and the Domenie[15] in
the zeenahnahs are in great request on this day of festivity, in every
house where the pleasures and the follies of this world are not banished
by hearts devoted solely to the service of God. 'The Nautch' has been, so
often described that it would here be superfluous to add to the
description, feeling as I do an utter dislike both to the amusement and
the performers. The nautchunies are entirely excluded from the female
apartments of the better sort of people; no respectable Mussulmaun would
allow these impudent women to perform before their wives and daughters.

But I must speak of the Domenie, who are the singers and dancers admitted
within the pale of zeenahnah life; these, on the contrary, are women of
good character, and their songs are of the most chaste description,
chiefly in the Hindoostaunie tongue. They are instructed in Native music
and play on the instruments in common use with some taste,--as the
saattarah[16] (guitar), with three wire strings; the surringhee[17]
(rude-shaped violin); the dhome or dholle[18] (drum), in many varieties,
beaten with the fingers, never with sticks. The harmony produced is
melancholy and not unpleasing, but at best all who form the several
classes of professors in Native societies are indifferent musicians.

Amateur performers are very rare amongst the Mussulmauns; indeed, it is
considered indecorous in either sex to practise music, singing, or dancing;
and such is the prejudice on their minds against this happy resource
amongst genteel people of other climates, that they never can reconcile
themselves to the propriety of 'The Sahib Logue',--a term in general use
for the English people visiting India,--figuring away in a quadrille or
country dance. The nobles and gentlemen are frequently invited to witness
a 'station-ball'; they look with surprise at the dancers, and I have often
been asked why I did not persuade my countrywomen that they were doing
wrong. 'Why do the people fatigue themselves, who can so well afford to
hire dancers for their amusement?' Such is the difference between people
of opposite views in their modes of pleasing themselves: a Native
gentleman would consider himself disgraced or insulted by the simple
inquiry, 'Can you dance, sing, or play?'

The female slaves are sometimes taught to sing for their ladies' amusement,
and amongst the many Hindoostanie airs there are some that would please
even the most scientific ear; although, perhaps, they are as old as the
country in which they were invented, since here there are neither
composers of modern music, nor competitors for fame to bring the amusement
to a science. Prejudice will be a continual barrier to improvement in
music with the natives of India; the most homely of their national airs
are preferred at the present day to the finest composition of modern

My promised postscript is a translation from the Persian, extracted from
'The Hyaatool Kaaloob'. The author is detailing the manner of living
habitual to Mahumud and his family, and gives the following anecdotes
'hudeeth' [19] (to be relied on), which occurred at the season of Rumzaun;
the writer says:--

'It is well known that they (Mahumud's family) were poor in worldly wealth;
that they set no other value on temporal riches (which occasionally passed
through their hands) but as loans from the great Giver of all good, to be
by them distributed amongst the poor, and this was done faithfully; they
kept not in their hands the gifts due to the necessitous. The members of
Mahumud's family invariably lived on the most simple diet, even when they
could have commanded luxuries.

'At one season of Rumzaun,--it was in the lifetime of Mahumud,--Fatima,
her husband Ali, and their two sons, Hasan and Hosein, had fasted two days
and nights, not having, at that period, the means of procuring the
smallest quantity of food to break their fast with. Habitually and from,
principle, they disguised from the world or their friends all such
temporal trials as it seemed good in the wisdom of Divine Providence to
place in their chequered path; preferring under any circumstances of need,
to fix their sole trust in the mercy and goodness of God for relief,
rather than by seeking aid from their fellow-creatures lessening their
dependence on Him.

'On the evening above mentioned, Mahumud went to the cottage of Fatima,
and said, "Daughter, I am come to open my fast with thee."--"In the name
of the most merciful God, be it so," was the reply of Fatima; yet secretly
she sorrowed, that the poverty of her house must now be exposed to her
beloved father.

'Fatima spread the dustha-khawn[20] (a large square of calico) on the
floor of the room near her father, placed empty plates before him, then
retired to her station for prayers; spreading her mat in the direction of
Kaabah, she prostrated herself to the earth before God in the humblest
attitude, imploring His merciful aid, in this her moment of trial.
Fatima's fervent prayer was scarcely finished, when a savoury smell of
food attracted her attention; raising her head from the earth, her anxious
eye was greeted with the view of a large bowl or basin filled with
sulleed[21] (the Arabian food of that period). Fatima again bowed down her
head, and poured out in humble strains that gratitude to God with which
her heart overflowed. Then rising from her devotions, she took up the
savoury food and hurried with it to her father's presence, and summoned
her husband and the children to partake of this joyous meal, without even
hinting her thoughts that it was the gift of Heaven.

'Ali had been some time seated at the meal, when he, knowing they had no
means of procuring it, looked steadily on Fatima, and inquired where she
had secreted this delicious food; at the same time recurring to the two
days' fast they had endured. "Rebuke her not, my son," said Mahumud;
"Fatima is the favoured of Heaven, as was Myriam[22] (Mary), the mother of
Esaee[23] (Jesus), who, living in her uncle Zechareah's[24] (Zachariah's)
house, was provided by God with the choicest of fruits. Zechareah was poor,
and oft he hungered for a meal; but when he entered Myriam's apartment, a
fresh supply of rare fruits was wont to greet his eye. Zechareah asked,
Whence had ye these precious gifts? Myriam answered, An angel from God
places the fruit before me; eat, my uncle, and be satisfied."'

The writer thus leaves the story of the miraculous food to Fatima's prayer,
and goes on as follows:--

'At another season of the fast, this family of charity endured a severe
trial, which was miraculously and graciously rewarded. Fatima had a female
slave, who shared with her equally the comforts and the toils of life.

'The food allotted to every member of Ali's family was two small barley
cakes for each day; none had more or less throughout the family. The
labour of domestic affairs was shared by Fatima with her female slave, and
each took their day for grinding the barley at the chuckee,[25] with which
the cakes were made.

'On the--day of Rumzaun, the corn was ground as usual, the cakes made, and
the moment for opening the fast anxiously anticipated, by this abstemious
family. The evening arrived, and when the family had fulfilled their
prayer-duty, the party assembled round the homely dustha-khawn with
thankful hearts, and countenances beaming with perfect content. All had
their allotted portions, but none had yet tasted of their cakes, when the
voice of distress caught their ears. "Give me, oh, give me, for the love
of God! something to relieve my hunger and save my famishing family from
perishing." Fatima caught up her barley cakes, and ran out to the
supplicant, followed by her husband, the two children, and the slave. The
cakes were given to the distressed creature, and as they comprised their
whole stock, no further supply awaited their returning steps, nor even a
substitute within the bare walls of their cottage; a few grains of salt
had been left from cooking the barley cakes, and each took a little of the
small quantity, to give a relish to the water they now partook of freely;
and then retired to sleep away the remembrance of hunger.

'The next day found them all in health, and with hearts at peace; the day
was passed in useful occupation, and when evening drew nigh, the same
humble fare was ready for the fasting family, whose appetites were doubly
keen by the lengthened abstinence. Again they meet to partake in gratitude
the great gift of Divine goodness, wholesome sustenance; when, lo! the
sound of sorrowing distress, petitioning in the holy name adored by these
pious souls,--"For the Love of God!"--arrested their attention. An appeal
so urgently made carried with it a command to their devout hearts, and the
meal so long delayed to their own necessities was again surrendered to the
beggar's prayers.

'This family of charity had returned to their empty hut, and were seated
in pious conversation to beguile their sufferings; not a murmuring word or
sigh escaped their sanctified mouths. As the evening advanced thus
occupied, a pleasing joy seemed to fill the heart of Fatima, who secretly
had sorrowed for her good dear children's privations; presently a bright
and powerful light filled the room, an angel stood before them; his
appearance gave them no alarm;--they beheld his presence with humility.
"Thy good deeds", said the angel (Gabriel), "are acceptable to God, the
All Merciful! by whose command I come to satisfy the demands of mortal
nature; this fruit (dates) is the gift of Him you serve; eat and be at
peace." The meal was ample which the angel brought to this virtuous family,
and having placed it before them, he vanished from their sight.'

The Chuckee, before mentioned, is two flat circular stones (resembling
grindstones in England), the upper stone has a peg or handle fixed in it,
near the edge, with which it is forced round, by the person grinding, who
is seated on the floor; the corn is thrown in through a circular hole on
the upper stone, and the flour works out at the edges between the two
stones. This is the only method of grinding corn for the immense
population throughout Oude, and most other parts of Hindoostaun even to
the present day. The late King of Oude, Ghauzieood deen Hyder, was at one
time much pressed by some English friends of his, to introduce water-mills,
for the purpose of grinding corn; he often spoke of the proposed plan to
the Meer, and declared his sole motive for declining the improvement was
the consideration he had for the poor women, who by this employment made
an excellent living in every town and village, and who must, by the
introduction of mills, be distressed for the means of support. 'My poor
women', he would often say, 'shall never have cause to reproach me, for
depriving them of the use and benefit of their chuckee.'

I have before said it is not my intention to offer opinions on the
character of the Mussulmaun people, my business being merely to relate
such things as I have heard and seen amongst them. The several
translations and anecdotes I take the opportunity of placing in these
letters, are from authorities the Mussulmauns style, hudeeth
(authentic),--that are not, cannot, be doubted, as they have been handed
down either by Mahumud or by the Emaums, whose words are equally to be
relied on. When any passages in their sacred writings are commented on by
different authors, they give their authority for the opinion offered, as
Emaum Such-a-one explains it thus. You understand, therefore, that the
Mussulmauns believe these miracles to have occurred to the members of
their Prophet's family as firmly as we believe in the truth of our Holy

[1] _Kahani_.

[2] _Thandi_.

[3] See p. 13.

[4] _Rozadar_, 'one who keeps fast' (_roza_).

[5] _Spinacea oleracea_, or _Basella alba_.

[6] Dhall [_dal_] is a sort of pea, sometimes cooked in a savoury way
with garlic, salt, ghee, pepper and herbs. It is about the consistence
of thick pea-soup--but without meat. [_Author_.]

[7] But it is directed that infirm people, unable to fast, should feed a
poor person when the fast is over. Women in child and those suckling
children are advised to fast at some other more convenient season.

[8] 'Idu'l-fitr, 'the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast'.

[9] _Dahi_.

[10] The Ajwah date is never sold in Arabia, because the Prophet advised
that whosoever break the fast every day with, six or seven of those
fruits need fear neither poison nor magic.--Burton, _Pilgrimage_,
i. 401 f.

[11] Known as _siwayan_, which Musalman servants present on this day
to their European masters in India.

[12] _Nazr, nazar_.

[13] A lumbering, keelless barge, formerly much used by Europeans
travelling on the Ganges and its tributaries: _bajra_ meaning

[14] _Khil'at._

[15] _Domni_, a woman of the Dom or singer class.

[16] _Sitara_, 'three-stringed', but often possessing four or more
strings of steel and brass wire, played with a steel wire frame.

[17] _Saranyi_.

[18] _Dhol_: 'dhome' is a mistake.

[19] _Hadis_, the sayings of the Prophet, not of an uninspired divine or

[20] _Dastarkhwan_, a modification of the Arab leathern table-spread

[21] _Tharid_, bread moistened with broth and mixed with scraps of meat.

[22] Maryam.

[23] 'Isa'l-Masih.

[24] Zakariya (_Koran_, iii. 32, vi. 85, xix. 1-12, xxi. 89).

[25] _Chakki_.


The Hadje (Pilgrimage to Mecca).--Commanded to be performed by
Mahumud.--Eagerness of both sexes to visit the Prophet's
tomb.--Qualifications requisite for the undertaking.--Different
routes from India to Mecca.--Duties of the pilgrims at the Holy
House.--Mecca and its environs.--Place of Abraham.--The
Bedouins.--Anecdote of a devotee and two pilgrims.--A Bedouin Arab,
and the travellers to Mecca.--The Kaabah (Holy House).--Superstitious
regard to a chain suspended there.--Account of the gold
water-spout.--Tax levied on pilgrims visiting the tomb of Mahumud by
the Sheruff of Mecca.--Sacred visit to the tombs of Ali, Hasan, and
Hosein.--The importance attached to this duty.--Travellers annoyed by
the Arabs.--An instance recorded.--The Nudghiff Usheruff.--Anecdotes
of Syaad Harshim.

'The Pilgrimage to Mecca' is commanded by Mahumud to his followers at
least once during their lifetime, provided the obstacles are not
insurmountable. Indulgences are made for the sick, or individual poverty.
All who have the means at command, whatever may be their distance from the
place, are expected to perform the Hadje themselves if possible; or, if
prevented by any circumstances they cannot control, they are required to
pay the expenses of other persons willing to be their proxies.

Whatever information I have acquired on the subject of this pilgrimage has
been gleaned from frequent conversations with Meer Hadjee Shaah, who, as I
have before remarked, performed the Hadje from Hindoostaun to Mecca, at
three different periods of his eventful life.

If the fatigues, privations, and difficulties of the pilgrimage to Mecca
be considered, the distance from Hindoostaun must indeed render the Hadje
a formidable undertaking; yet, the piously disposed of both sexes yearn
for the opportunity of fulfilling the injunctions of their Lawgiver, and
at the same time, gratifying their laudable feelings of sympathy and
curiosity--their sympathy, as regards the religious veneration for the
place and its purposes; their curiosity, to witness with their own eyes
those places rendered sacred by the words of the Khoraun in one instance,
and also for the deposits contained in the several tombs of prophets, whom
they have been taught to reverence and respect as the servants of God.

Every year may be witnessed in India the Mussulmauns of both sexes forming
themselves into Kauflaahs[1] (parties of pilgrims) to pursue their march
on this joyous expedition, believing, as they do, that they are fulfilling
a sacred duty. The number of women is comparatively few, and those chiefly
from the middling and lower classes of the people, whose expenses are
generally paid by the rich females. The great obstacle to the higher
classes performing the pilgrimage themselves is, that the person must at
times be necessarily exposed to the view of the males. The lower orders
are less scrupulous in this respect, who, whilst on the pilgrimage, wear a
hooded cloak[2] of white calico, by which the person is tolerably well
secreted, so that the aged and youthful have but one appearance; the
better sort of people, however, cannot reconcile themselves to go abroad,
unless they could be permitted to have their covered conveyances, which in
this case is impossible.

The qualifications necessary for all to possess, ere they can be deemed
fit subjects for the Hadje, are, as I learn, the following:

'They must be true Mussulmauns in their faith; that is, believe in one
only true God, and that Mahumud is His Prophet.

'They must strictly obey the duties commanded by Mahumud; that is, prayer
five times daily, the fast of Rumzaun, &c.

'They must be free from the world; that is, all their debts must be paid,
and their family so well provided for, according to their station, that no
one dependent on them may be in want of the necessaries of life during the
absence of the pilgrim from his home and country.

'They must abstain from all fermented or intoxicating liquors, and also
from all things forbidden to be eaten by the law (which is strictly on the
Mosaic principle).

'They must freely forgive their enemies; and if they have given any one
cause of offence, they must humble themselves, and seek to be forgiven.

'They must repent of every evil they have committed, either in thought,
word, or deed, against God or their neighbour.'

Thus prepared, the pious Mussulmaun sets out on his supposed duty, with
faith in its efficacy, and reliance on the goodness of Divine Providence
to prosper him in the arduous undertaking.

Many Kauflaahs from the Upper Provinces of India, travel overland to
Bombay; others make Calcutta their place of embarkation, in the Arab ships,
which visit those ports annually with returning pilgrims from Arabia,
cargoes of coffee, Arabian fruits, and drugs. Some few enterprising people
make the whole pilgrimage by land; this is, however, attended with so many
and severe difficulties, that but few of the present day have courage to
attempt it. In those cases their road would be from Delhie to Cashmire,
through Buckaria,[3] making a wide circuit to get into Persia. This is the
most tedious route, but possesses the advantages of more inhabited places
on the line of march, and therefore provisions are the more readily
procured. There is one route from the Lahore Province,--the English
territory here is bounded by the river Suttledge, which the traveller
crosses into the Sikh country,--through Afghastaan and Persia. I have not
heard of the Kauflaahs making this their road of late; there seems to be
always a disposition to fear the Sikhs,[4] who are become a powerful
nation under Runjeet Singh; but I am not aware what ground the pilgrims
have for their distrust, except that they can scarcely expect the same
courtesy from these people as from the Mussulmauns, who would naturally
aid and assist the pilgrims, and respect the persons thus labouring to
accomplish the command of their Prophet.

Whatever may be the chosen route, the pilgrims must make up their minds to
many trials necessarily incident to the undertaking; and to the habits of
the Mussulmauns of India, I cannot suppose any fatigue or trial greater
than the voyage by sea, in an Arab vessel. It is well for those persons
whose hearts have undergone that thorough change, which by the law fits
them for the Hadje; with such men, earthly calamities, privations, or any
other mere mortal annoyances, are met with pious fortitude, having
consolations within which strengthen the outward man: in all their trials
they will say, 'It is in the road of God, by Him cometh our reward'.

The duty of the pilgrims, on their arrival at the Holy Place, is to
worship God, and visit the tombs of the Prophets. There are forms and
regulations to be observed in the manner of worship; certain circuits to
be made round the Kaabah; saluting with the lips the sacred stone therein
deposited; and calling to remembrance the past wonders of God, with
reverence and piety of heart. I have often heard Meer Hadjee Shaah speak
of the comfort a humble-minded pilgrim enjoys at the time he is making his
visit to the Holy House; he says, 'There the heart of the faithful servant
of God is enlightened and comforted; but the wicked finds no rest near

The pilgrims visit the tombs of every prophet of their faith within their
reach; as the mausoleum of Hasan and Hosein, the Nudghiff Usheruff of Ali,
and, if it be possible, Jerusalem also. At Dimishk (Damascus) they pay
respect to the burying-place of Yieyah[5] (St. John), over whose earthly
remains is erected, they say, the Jumna Musjud[6] (mosque), to which the
faithful resort on Fridays (their Sabbath) to prayer.

Within the confines of the Holy House, life is held so sacred that not the
meanest living thing is allowed to be destroyed; and if even by accident
the smallest insect is killed, the person who has caused the death is
obliged to offer in atonement, at the appointed place for sacrificing to
God, sheep or goats according to his means.[7]

According to the description of Meer Hadjee Shaah the city of Mecca is
situated in the midst of a partially barren country; but at the spot
called Taaif,[8]--only one day's journey from Mecca,--the soil is
particularly fertile, producing all kinds of fruit and vegetables in great
abundance, and the air remarkably pure and healthy. The word Taaif implies
in the Arabic 'the circuits completed'. It is recorded 'that the angel
Gabriel brought this productive soil, by God's command, and placed it at a
convenient distance from Mecca, in order that the pilgrims and sojourners
at the Holy House might be benefited by the produce of the earth, without
having them sufficiently near to call off their attention from the solemn
duty of worshipping their God, which they are expressly called upon to
perform at Mecca'.

My informant tells me that there is a stone at Mecca known by the
appellation of 'Ibraahim Mukhaun' (Place of Abraham):[9] on this is seen
the mark of a human foot, and believed by pilgrims, on good authority, to
be the very stone on which Abraham rested his foot when making occasional
visits to his son Ishmael: at the performance of this duty he never
dismounted from his camel, in compliance with his sacred promise made to
Sarah the mother of Isaac.

The pilgrimage to Mecca is most securely performed by those persons who
travel in a humble way; riches are sure to attract the cupidity of the
Bedouins. A poor pilgrim they respect, and with him they will share their
last meal or coin. The Bedouin Arab delights in hospitably entertaining
men of his own faith, provided they are really distressed; but the
consequence of deception would be a severe visitation on the delinquent.
The two following stories I have received from Meer Hadjee Shaah,
descriptive of some of the incidents that occur to pilgrims, and therefore
may be acceptable here.

'A good Mussulmaun of Hindoostaun resolved on undertaking the Hadje, being
under the strong impression of a warning dream that his earthly career
would speedily terminate. He travelled on foot, with one companion only,
who was a faithfully-attached friend; they had no worldly wealth, and
journeyed on their way as mendicants, trusting for each day's food to the
bountiful care of Divine Providence: nor was their trust in vain, since
the hearts of all who saw these pious travellers were moved by the power
of God to yield them present relief.

'On a certain day these pilgrims had journeyed from the dawn until eve
without a meal, or meeting any one to assist them, when they were at last
encountered by a religious devotee of another nation, with whom they
conversed for some time. Their new acquaintance having found they were
indeed poor, not even possessed of a single coin to purchase corn or food
of any kind, expressed his hearty sympathy, and desired to be of service
to the pilgrims; he therefore disclosed to them that he was in possession
of a secret for the transmutation of metals,[10] and offered some of his
prepared powder to the elder Hadjee, by which he would have persuaded him
want should never again intrude; adding, "You will with this be
independent of all future care about subsistence on your pilgrimage."

'The pious Hadjee, however, was of a different mind from the devotee, and
politely rejected the offer of the powder by which he was to acquire
riches, declaring that the possession of such an article would rob him of
the best treasure he enjoyed, namely, the most perfect reliance on Him, by
whom the birds of the air are fed from day to day without labour or care,
and who had hitherto fed him both in the city and in the desert; and that
in this trust he had comforts and consolations which the whole world could
not grant him: "My God, in whom I trust, will never desert me whilst I
rely on Him alone for succour and support."'

My excellent friend says, such pilgrims as the one described may pass
through the haunts of the Bedouins without fear or sorrow, and they are
always respected. The next anecdote I am about to relate will develop more
particularly the Arab's natural disposition, and how necessary it is for
men really to be that they would seem, when placed by circumstances within
their reach. Some of the parties were known to my venerable relative.

'Six Mussulmauns from India were travelling on foot in Arabia; they
assumed the title of pilgrim mendicants. On a certain day they drew nigh
to the tent of a Bedouin Arab, who went out to meet them, and entering
into conversation, soon discovered by their talk that they were poor
pilgrims from India, who depended on casual bounties from men of their
faith for their daily meal. The Bedouin, though a robber, had respect for
the commands of his religion; and with that respect he boasted a due share
of hospitable feeling towards all who were of his own faith; he
accordingly told them they were welcome to his home, and the best meal he
could provide for them, which offers they very gladly accepted, and
followed him to the tent.

'The Arab desired his wife to take water to his guests and wash their feet
after the fatigue of their day's march, and told her in secret to divert
their attention whilst he went out in search of plunder, that the
hospitality of an Arab might be shown to the strangers. Then mounting his
fleet-camel, he was quickly out of sight. Many a weary circuit the Arab
made, his ill stars prevailed; not a Kauflaah nor a traveller could he
meet, whence a supply might be extracted, to be the means of providing for
his guests; his home was penniless, and with the Bedouins, none give
credit. His bad success dispirited him, and he returned to the back of his
tent, to consult what was best to be done in this emergency. The only
thing he possessed in the world fit for food was the animal on which he
rode, from day to day, to levy contributions upon the passing traveller.

'His only immediate resource was to kill his favourite camel. His honour
was at stake; the sacrifice would be great; he was attached to the beast;
the loss would be irreparable, he thought:--yet every weighty argument on
one side to preserve the camel's life, was as quickly overturned in the
reflection of his Arabian honour;--his visitors must be fed, and this was
the only way he could contrive the meal. With trembling hands and
half-averted eyes, the camel's blood was shed; with one plunge his
favourite ceased to breathe. For some minutes, the Arab could not look on
his poor faithful servant; but pride drove pity from her haunt, and the
animal was quickly skinned and dressed in savoury dishes, with his wife's
assistance. At length, the food prepared, the Arab and his wife placed the
most choice portions before their guests, and whilst they dined attended
them with respectful assiduity; selecting for each the most delicate
pieces, to induce the travellers to eat, and evince the cordial welcome
tendered by the host.[11]

'The travellers having dined; the Arab and his wife took their turn at the
feast with appetites most keen,--forgetful even, for the time, whence the
savoury dishes were procured; and if an intruding thought of his favourite
camel shot across the mind of the Arab, it was quickly chased in the
reflection that his prided honour was secured by the sacrifice, and that
reflection was to him a sufficient compensation.

'The pilgrims, refreshed by food, were not inclined to depart, and as they
were urged to stay by their friendly host, they slept comfortably in the
Arab's tent, on coarse mats, the only bed known to the wandering Bedouins.
The morning found them preparing to pursue their march; but the Arab
pressed their continuance another day, to share with him in the abundance
his camel afforded for the whole of the party. The travellers were not
unwilling to delay their departure, for they had journeyed many days
without much ease, and with very little food; their host's conversation
also was amusing, and this second day of hospitality by the Arab was an
addition to the comfort and convenience of the weary pilgrims.

'The following morning, as was fixed, the travellers rose to take leave of
their benevolent host and his attentive wife; each as he embraced the Arab,
had some grateful word to add, for the good they had received at his hands.
The last of the pilgrims, having embraced the Arab, was walking from the
tent, when the dog belonging to the host seized the man by his garment and
held him fast. "What is this?" inquired the Arab, "surely you must have
deceived me; my dog is wise as he is trusty,--he never yet lied to his
master. This labaadhar of yours he has taken a fancy to it seems; but you
shall have my coat of better-looking stuff for your old chintz garment. We
will exchange labaadhars,[12] my friend," said the Arab, throwing his own
towards the hesitating traveller. His fellow-pilgrims, hearing altercation,
advanced, and with surprise listened to the parley going on between the
host and guest.--"I have a veneration for my chintz, old as it is," said
the pilgrim; "it has been my companion for many years, brother; indeed I
cannot part with it." The dog held fast the garment, and the Arab, finding
persuasion was but loss of words, cast a frown of deep meaning on the
travellers, and addressed them:--"Ye came to me beggars, hungry and
fatigued; I believed ye were poor, and I sheltered ye these two days, and
fed ye with my best; nay, more, I even killed my useful camel, that your
hunger might be appeased. Had I known there was money with any of ye, my
poor beast's life might yet have been spared; but it is too late to repent
the sacrifice I made to serve you," Then, looking steadfastly at the
chintz-robed traveller, he added, in a tone of sharp authority, "Come,
change garments!--here, no one disputes my commands!"

'The trembling pilgrim reluctantly obeyed. The Arab took up the garment
and proceeded with it to where the fire was kindled. "Now we shall see
what my trusty dog discovered in your tattered chintz," said the Arab, as
he threw it on the fire. All the pilgrims hovered round the flames to
watch what would result from the consuming garment, with intense anxiety.
The Arab drew from the embers one hundred gold mohurs, to the surprise and
wonder of all the travellers, save him who owned the chintz garment; he
had kept his treasures so secretly, that even in their greatest distress
he allowed his brother pilgrims to suffer, with himself, want and
privations which, owing to his lust for gold, he had no heart to relieve.

'The Arab selected from the prize he had obtained, by the exchange of
garments, ten gold mohurs, and presented them to the owner with a sharp
rebuke for his duplicity, alluding to the meanness he had been guilty of
in seeking and accepting a meal from a Bedouin, whilst he possessed so
much wealth about his person; then adding,--"There is nothing hidden from
God; I killed my sole treasure to give food to the poor hungry travellers;
my deed of charity is rewarded; deceit in you is punished by the loss of
that wealth you deserved not to possess.--Depart, and be thankful that
your life is spared; there are some of my tribe who would not have
permitted you to go so easily: you have enough spared to you for your
journey; in future, avoid base deceptions."'

Of the Kaabah (Holy House) many wonderful things are recorded in the
several commentaries on the Khoraun, and other ancient authorities, which
it would fill my letter to detail. I will, however, make mention of the
mystic chain as a sample of the many superstitious habits of that age.

It is said, 'A chain was suspended from the roof of Kaabah, whither the
people assembled to settle (by the touch) disputed rights in any case of
doubt between contending parties.'

Many curious things are related as having been decided by this mystic
chain,[13] which it should seem, by their description, could only be
reached by the just person in the cause to be decided, since, however long
the arm of the faulty person, he could never reach the chain; and however
short the person's arm who was in the right, he always touched the chain
without difficulty. I will here relate one of the anecdotes on this

'Two pilgrims travelled together in Arabia; on the way one robbed the
other of his gold coins, and secreted them carefully in the hollow of his
cane or staff. His companion missing his cash, accused him of the theft,
and when disputes had risen high between them, they agreed to visit the
mystic chain to settle their difference. Arriving at Kaabah, their
intentions being disclosed to the keepers of the place, the thief claimed
the privilege, being the accused, of first reaching to touch the chain; he
then gave the staff in which he had deposited the money into his
fellow-pilgrim's hands, saying, "Keep this, whilst I go to prove my
innocence." He next advanced and made the usual prayer, adding to which,
"Lord, whatever I have done amiss I strive to remedy; I repent, and I
restore"; then raising his arm, he touched the chain without difficulty.
The spectators were much surprised, because all believed he was actually
the thief. The man who lost his gold, freely forgave his fellow-traveller,
and expressed sorrow that he had accused him wrongfully; yet he wished to
prove that he was not guilty of falsehood--having really lost his
gold,--and declared he also would approach the chain to clear himself from
such a suspicion. "Here," said he to the criminal, "take back your staff;"
and he advanced within the Kaabah, making the required prayer, and adding,
"Now my Creator will grant me mercy and favour, for He knoweth my gold was
stolen, and I have not spoken falsely in that, yet I know not who is the
thief." He raised his hand and grasped the chain, at which the people were
much amazed.'

It is presumed, by writers of a later period, that this circumstance threw
the mystic properties of the chain out of favour; for it was soon after
removed secretly, these writers add, and its disappearance made the
subject of much conjecture; no one could ever ascertain by whom it was
taken, but the general belief is, that it was conveyed away by
supernatural agency. Another marvellous story is recorded of the Kaabah,
as follows:

'A poor pilgrim, nearly famishing with hunger, while encircling the Holy
House, on looking up towards the building observed the water-spout of
gold[14] hanging over his head. He prayed that his wants might be relieved,
adding, "To Thee, O God, nothing is difficult. At thy command, that spout
of gold may descend to my relief;" holding the skirt of his garment to
receive it, in answer to his faithful address. The spout had been firmly
fixed for ages, yet it fell as the pilgrim finished his prayer. He lost no
time in walking away with his valuable gift, and offered it to a merchant
for sale, who immediately recognizing the gold spout of Kaabah, accused
the pilgrim of sacrilege, and without delay handed him over to the
Sheruff[15] of Mecca, to answer for his crime. He declared his innocence
to the Sheruff, and told him how he became possessed of the treasure. The
Sheruff had some difficulty in believing his confession, yet perceiving he
had not the appearance of a common thief, he told him, if what he had
declared was true, the goodness of God would again be extended towards him
on the trial he proposed to institute. The spout was restored to its
original position on the Kaabah, and made secure. This done, the pilgrim
was required to repeat his faithful address to God, in the presence of the
assembled multitude; when, to their astonishment, it again descended at
the instant his prayer was finished. Taking up the spout without
hesitation, he was walking away with it very quietly, when the people
flocked round him, believing him to be some sainted person, and earnestly
requested him to bestow on them small portions of his raiment as relics of
his holy person. The Sheruff then clothed him in rich garments, and in
lieu of the gold spout--which none could now dispute his right to,--the
same weight of gold in the current coin of Arabia was given to him, thus
raising him from beggary to affluence.'

I have often heard Meer Hadjee Shaah speak of this gold spout which adorns
the Kaabah, being held in great veneration by the pilgrims who make the
Hadje to that place.

All Mussulmauns performing the pilgrimage pay a kind of tax to the Sheruff
of Mecca. The present possessors of power in Mecca are of the Soonie sect.
The admission money, in consequence, falls heavy on the Sheahs, from whom
they exact heavy sums, out of jealousy and prejudice. This renders it
difficult for the poor Sheah pilgrim to gain admittance, and it is even
suspected that in many cases they are induced to falsify themselves, when
it is demanded of them what sect they belong to, rather than be denied
entrance after their severe trial to reach the confines of Mecca. The tax
levied on the Soonies is said to be trifling in proportion to that of the

Amongst the different places visited by each Hadjee,--after the circuit is
made,--a zeearut to the tomb of Ali at Nudghiff Usheruff, and the
far-famed Kraabaallah of Hasan and Hosein are esteemed indispensable
engagements, if it be possible; there is not, however, any command to this
effect in the Mussulmaun law, but the Sheahs, zealous for their leaders,
are willing to think they do honour to their memory, by visiting those
tombs which contain the mortal remains of their respected Emaums.

Travelling through this part of Arabia, Meer Hadjee Shaah says, is
attended with much inconvenience and fatigue; but he failed not at each
pilgrimage he made, to pay a visit to the mausoleums of his forefathers.
He tells me that Kraabaallah was for a long time almost an interdicted
visit, through the power of the Soonies, who were so jealous of the
respect paid to the Emaums, that the Turks (who are Soonies) raised the
price of admission within the gates to one hundred gold pieces. At that
time very few people could gratify their yearnings beyond the outside view
of the mausoleum; and even now that the entrance-money is much reduced the
sums so collected yield a handsome revenue to the Turks.

I will here introduce an anecdote which proves the value certain
individuals set on the zeearut (sacred visit) to Kraabaallah, which I have
received from my revered pilgrim-friend and relative.

'Amongst the applicants for admission at the gates of Kraabaallah was an
aged woman clothed in ragged garments. The gate-keeper, judging from her
appearance, that she was destitute of money, scoffed at her presumption;
she, however, produced the price of admission with much confidence of
manner, and demanded entrance without further delay. The keepers now
suspected the old woman to be a thief, and commenced interrogating her how
she became possessed of so large a sum. The poor old woman answered them,
"I have laboured hard for thirty years at my spinning-wheel, and have
debarred myself during those years of all superfluities, contenting myself
with a bare subsistence; I have done this that the dearest wish of my
heart might once in my lifetime be gratified, to visit and weep over the
tomb of my Emaums. Here, take the fruits of my labour, and let me have my
reward; every moment delayed is agony to me."'

In journeying through Arabia, pilgrims are much annoyed with the intrusion
they so frequently meet with from the idle Arabs, who force their way into
every stranger's place of sojourn without ceremony, to strain the nerves
of charity from 'brethren of the faith'.

There is a maxim well known amongst Mussulmauns,--the words of
Mahumud,--'With the faithful, all are brothers'; and this is the pass-word
with those idle men who pretend to have too much pride to beg, and are yet
too indolent to labour for their support.

A Mussulmaun,--however great his rank,--is seated with his friends and
attendants; an Arab, who lives by this method, stalks into the tent or
apartment, salutes the master with, 'Salaam-oon-ali Koom!' (health or
peace be with you!) and unbidden takes his seat on the nearest vacant spot
to the head person of the assembly. After the first surprise excited by
the stranger's intrusion, he looks at the master and says, 'I claim the
privilege of a brother'; by which it is to be understood the Arab requires
money from the richer man of his faith. A small sum is tendered, he
receives it without indicating any sense of obligation, rises from his
seat, and moves off with no other than the familiar salute which marked
his entrance, 'Salaam-oon-ali Koom!'[16]

A rich Eunuch, of Lucknow, accompanied Meer Hadjee Shaah on one of his
pilgrimages, with a large Kauflaah. Upon one occasion, when the whole
party were seated in friendly conclave, some of these idle Arabs entered
in the way described; the Eunuch was unacquainted with the language, or
the manners of Arabia, and expressed his dislike to their freedom in warm
language, and evident anger in his countenance; many had claimed the
tribute of brotherhood, when the Eunuch, who was accustomed in his own
country to receive respect and deference from inferiors, lost all patience
with the uncourtly intrusion of the Arabs, and evinced his wrath to the
proud Arab then present, who understood by his violent manners, if not by
his language, that he was offended with him. The good sense and kindly
manner of Meer Hadjee Shaah restored tranquillity in the assembly; he gave
money to the man, and apologized for his friend's ignorance of the customs
of Arabia: thus preventing the enraged Arab from fulfilling his threat of
forcing the Eunuch to appear before the Sheruff of Mecca.

Nudghiff Usheruff, the burying-place of Ali, is the resort of many pious
men of the Mussulmaun persuasion, as well as the shrine to be visited by
'the faithful' of the Sheah sect. Amongst the many singular stories I have
heard of the devout men of that religion, I select one from the number
relating to a man whose abode was--through choice--near the shrine of
their beloved Emaum Ali. I shall give it in exactly the style I have
received it, through my husband's translation, from an old work in the
Persian language.

'In the reign of Nadir Shaah,[17] a devout man of the faith took up his
abode in the vicinity of Nudghiff Usheruff in Arabia. He was a Syaad,
named Harshim;[18] a man of great learning, whose heart was set on seeking
with love the most merciful God, whom he served faithfully. Syaad Harshim,
conscious that the riches and honours of this world are inadequate to
procure eternal happiness, and feeling convinced that the more humble a
man's mode of living is, the greater are the prospects of escaping
temptations in this life of probation, resolved on labouring for his daily
bread, and relinquished with his paternal home, the abundance and riches
which his ancient house had long boasted.

'Syaad Harshim selected Nudghiff Usheruff for his sojourn, and the
business of a woodman for a calling. The piety of his life, and the
goodness of his heart, drew upon him the respect of the inhabitants of the
city. It was his practice to spend every day in the jungle (wilderness)
cutting fire-wood, of which he gave a light burthen to his ass; and
returning towards evening to the populated city, he found ready customers
for the load which his day's labour produced. His honesty and love of
truth were proverbial: he asked the price for his wood which he intended
to take; if more was offered, it was rejected,--if less, he would not
accept it.

'One evening, a man of superior address to his usual customers, but poorly
clad, met him at the entrance of the street, and bargained for the load of
wood. Syaad Harshim was penetrating, and could not help expressing his
surprise at the circumstance of one, evidently moving in a higher sphere,
being there to purchase wood. "I see," said the Syaad to the purchaser,
"that your station is superior to your circumstances!--How is this?"--"My
story," replied the stranger, "is not, I fear, uncommon in this age of the
world. I will relate it briefly:--I was once a rich man, and my mind was
set on making the pilgrimage. Aware that valuables and money would be an
incumbrance to me on my journey, I applied to the Kauzy of this city to
take charge of all my worldly riches during my absence, to which he
readily consented, and having packed my jewels, money, and valuables in a
strong chest with a good lock, I gave it into his charge and departed.

'"My pilgrimage accomplished, and tired of a wandering life, I returned
home after a few years' absence, waited on the Kauzy, and applied for the
treasure I had deposited in his care; he denied all knowledge of me or my
valuables, pretended not to understand me, called me an impostor, and
eventually drove me from his house with violence. I again tried the Kauzy
by expostulation, and sent my friends to him, but all without benefit; for
here I am as you see me, Syaad Harshim, reduced to penury by the Kauzy's
injustice. The world esteems him a person of great character, and condemns
me as the unjust one. Well! I can say no more; I know that God is merciful,
I put my trust in Him!" "Ameen," responded the Syaad, "do you so, and it
will yet be well with you."

'The stranger lingered with the sympathizing Woodman, and after some time
had elapsed he asked him if he would interest himself with the Kauzy to
effect a restitution of his rights, adding, "All are willing to give you,
O Syaad, great credit for superior virtues." Harshim replied he had no
merit to call for his fellow-mortals' good opinion, but as he felt
interested in the affair he would certainly visit the unjust man, and
requested the stranger to meet him at the Kauzy's door on the following

'Arrived at the Kauzy's residence, Harshim was received with evident
pleasure, for though but a woodman, he yet was known to be a person of
superior rank, and a man universally respected for his great piety. After
the common salutations, the Syaad stated the object of his visit, assuring
the Kauzy he was actuated purely by good feelings towards him in the part
he had undertaken;--being desirous only of preserving his soul from the
evil that attended the unjust men of this world, who die without
repentance and restitution to those whom they have injured. Then calling
the stranger forward, he said with firmness of voice and manner, "Behold
this man! he left money and jewels in your charge whilst he went on his
duty to the pilgrimage; he comes now to demand his property, give back his
chest of treasures without delay, honestly and justly, as you hope for
mercy in a future state!"

'The Kauzy answered, "I have it not, Syaad Harshim, you may believe me;
this fellow wickedly raises the falsehood to injure me, and it is as much
to his own dishonour as to my discredit. I beg, therefore, you will
neither give credit to his base assertions, nor think so meanly of me; my
station as Kauzy of this district should, methinks, screen me from such
imputations."--"True," said Harshim, "the station you occupy in the world,
and the place you hold as Kauzy, prevent suspicion from attaching to you;
hence this poor man has not yet found redress to the justice of his claims.
I would have you believe me sincerely your friend, in desiring to bring
your heart to repentance, and thus only can your soul's safety be secured.
I know you to have this man's property, and your own heart even now
convicts you of the injustice you practise. Nothing is hidden from
God;--reflect on the punishment prepared for the unrepenting hypocrite.
Listen, whilst I relate to you my own convictions, or rather experience,
of that terrible punishment which is prepared for the impenitent hardened
sinner beyond the grave.

'"I have been a woodman for several years, and by my daily labour have
earned my coarse food. Some years since, I was sick and unable to pursue
my usual occupation; my supply was thus cut off. Requiring temporary
relief, I applied to a rich Banker of this city for a trifling loan; my
request was promptly complied with, and I engaged to repay the sum by two
pice each day upon again resuming my employment. By the mercy of God I
recovered; and on the evening of each day, as I sold the wood my day's
labour produced in the market, I paid the Banker two pice. On the very day,
however, that the last two were to have been paid, the Banker died. Thus I
remained his debtor still. Often had I thought of the circumstance that I
was his debtor, and with real regret; yet the sum was small, and with this
I became reconciled.

'"Not long after his decease I was visited with a dream, important to all
the world to know, and I therefore desire to make it public. Judgement was
opened to my view; the beauty of heaven was displayed on one side, and the
torments of hell on the other. My dream presented many people waiting
their award, whom I had known in life, and amongst the number my creditor
the Banker; he was standing on the brink of that fiery yawning gulf which
is prepared for the wicked and unjust. His attendant angels produced the
documents of their faithful keeping,--good and evil actions of every
mortal are thus registered,--one exhibited a small blank book in which not
one good deed had been recorded, and that presented by the other,
containing the evils of his ways on earth, appeared to me an immense
volume filled throughout.

'"'Take him to his merited torments!' was pronounced in an awful tone of
command.--'Have mercy! have pity!' cried the Banker, in a supplicating
voice.--'Produce one claim for pity,' was heard.--The Banker in agony
looked wildly round, as if in search of something he might urge in
extenuation, when casting his eyes on me he exclaimed, 'There! oh, there
is one! who when in trouble I relieved, and he is still my debtor!'

'"In my dream this appeared too slender a benefit to draw forth the
slightest remission of the punishments awarded to his deserts. 'Away with
him!' was heard.--'Oh!' cried the Banker's soul, 'draw near to me, thou
good, virtuous, and humble Woodman, that the reflected light of thy
virtues may give one instant's ease to my present torture. Let me but
touch the righteous Harshim, and I will depart to my just punishment with

'"I was permitted to gratify the unhappy spirit, wondering at the same
time what benefit he could derive from touching me. Advancing near the
tortured soul he stretched forth his hand and touched me on the knee; it
was like a firebrand; I drew back hastily and found my knee was scorched.
'Return to men with warnings,' said the wretched spirit. 'Tell them of my
unhappy state; tell them what are the tortures of the wicked; that touch
you have received on your knee, is of the same nature my whole body
suffers in eternal flames.'--The pain I suffered in my knee disordered my
sleep; I awoke in agony, and here it is to this day," said the Woodman,
untying a bandage from his knee. "Examine the place, and be warned, O
Kauzy, by the terrible certainty I have brought from that Banker whom you
knew, and who is now suffering for his injustice on earth. I have been
lame from that night of my dream," continued Syaad Harshim, "but I shall
rejoice in the pain, if the example influence one hardened sinner to
repent, whilst repentance may avail."

'During the recital of the dream, Syaad Harshim watched the countenance of
the Kauzy, who tried in vain to hide the guilty changes of his face. The
Syaad at last fixed his keen eyes on him, "Now, friend," said he, "it
would be great folly to add guilt to guilt by farther subterfuge. I know
the day, the hour, you ingeniously substituted a false key to this man's
chest; I could tell you what you wickedly took out; the place where it is
secreted, even, is not hidden from my knowledge; go, bring it from your
wife's apartment; a little labour will remove it from the corner near the

'The Kauzy was now subdued by the commanding truths of the Syaad, and his
heart being softened by the fearful relation of the Banker's torment, he
sank to the earth with shame and remorse,--"I acknowledge my sin, thou
holy man of truth;--forgive me!" he cried, "forgive me, oh my God! I am
indeed repentant, and by this holy man's means I am brought to a sense of
my guilt!" He then went to the women's apartment, brought out the chest
and delivered it to the owner, entreating Syaad Harshim to forgive him.

'The Syaad replied, "I have nothing to forgive, nor power to remit; my
advice you have freely, and may it serve you! Seek pardon from God who
loves to be sought, and whose mercy never faileth. He is not the God of
revenge, where repentance is sincere; but He is the God of mercy to all
who seek Him faithfully. His mercy is already extended to you, for He has
given you time to repent:--but for His mercy, you had been taken to your
punishment, whilst you had no thoughts of repentance in your guilty heart.
Farewell! let me know by your future life, that Syaad Harshim's lost
labour in the jungle of this day, has produced something to the better
harvest--awakening one sinner to a sense of his danger."'

Meer Hadjee Shaah has related to me many singular anecdotes of this Syaad
Harshim, which are generally spoken of, and believed to be true by the
sojourners at Nudghiff Usheruff. His memory is much respected by the
Mussulmauns, and the acts of his life are registered with the veneration
paid to saints, amongst people of more enlightened nations. They
confidently assert, that whenever Syaad Harshim presented himself at the
entrance to Nudghiff Usheruff, the gates, which are always kept locked,
flew open to receive him.

In proof that he disregarded worldly possessions, the following is related
of him in the ancient works both of Arabia and Persia:--

'The great conqueror, Nadir Shaah, on one occasion visited the shrine of
Ali, with a vast retinue of his chiefs, courtiers, and followers. The King
heard, whilst at Nudghiff Usheruff, of the sainted life led by the Woodman,
Syaad Harshim, in that neighbourhood, and he felt disposed to tender a
present of money and valuables, to induce the Syaad's prayer for his
future prosperity. Accordingly, the King commanded trays to be filled from
his Indian spoils, which were sent with a message, humbly couched,
entreating the good Syaad would accept his offering of respect, and make
prayers to God for him.

'The trays were conveyed by servants of the King, who arrived at the
Syaad's hut at the moment he was satisfying the demands of nature with a
meal of coarse barley bread and pure water. "What is all this?" inquired
the Syaad, on seeing the valuables before him. "An humble offering from
the great Nadir Shaah," replied the messenger, "who entreats you will
honour him by the acceptance of his presents, and offer your pious prayer
for God's mercy in his behalf." "My prayers", said the Syaad, "I can
promise shall be made duly and truly, but not my acceptance of his gifts.
Take back these hateful, useless things! Tell Nadir Shaah, Syaad Harshim
will not even touch them." The messenger tried persuasions without avail;
he was constrained to return to his royal master, with his loaded trays.

'No sooner were the King's servants out of sight, than the wife of Syaad
Harshim vented her disappointment in no measured strain of anger towards
her husband. "Here am I," said the old lady, "a very slave in consequence
of our poverty, a very beggar in appearance, and my scanty meal of coarse
bread is scarce sufficient to keep me in bodily strength; surely you ought
to have remembered me, when the King's offering was before you--even if
you liked not to accept it for yourself."--"I might indeed", he replied,
"have done as you say, wife, had I known your sentiments sooner; but I
believed you were as contented as myself with homely fare and honest
labour; but be comforted, you shall have a share of the next offering made
by the King to Syaad Harshim, provided your present inclination remains
unchanged by time." This promise quieted the wife's angry humour, and
peace was again restored between them.

'"Wife," said the Syaad, "this al-kaulock[19] (Arab's coat of calico) of
mine requires a little of thy labour: as I have now no other garment to
change with, I trust you may please to wash it whilst I take my
sleep;--one caution you must observe,--I have occasion for the water in
which this dress is to be washed; preserve it carefully for me, my good
wife;" and he laid him down on his mat to sleep. The wife, obedient to her
husband's wishes, washed his dress, and took care to preserve the dirty
water; when he awoke, she brought him the clean garment, and received his
warm commendations for her diligence. She then produced the pan of dirty
water, in which she had cleansed the garment, saying, "There, Syaad
Harshim, I have done as you desired."--"Very good," replied her husband,
"now you must farther oblige me by drinking it--you know there is nothing
in this water but the sweat of my body produced by my daily labour." The
wife, disgusted at the strange request of her husband, looked with
amazement, and fancied he must have lost his senses. "What is this you
require of me? would you poison your wife, O Syaad Harshim, with the filth
from your skin, the accumulation of many days' labour in the jungles? art
thou mad, to ask thy wife a request so unheard of?"

'"Listen to me, wife," said the Syaad, in gentle terms; "you profess to
love, honour, and respect me, as your faithful, lawful husband; pray can
the dirt from my body be more offensive to your palate than the scum of
Nadir Shaah, whom you only know by name? You would have accepted the
filthy offerings of a cruel man, who plundered and sacrificed his victims
to obtain the treasures he possesses;--you would not have scrupled to
obtain your future sustenance by the coins of Nadir Shaah, gained as they
were by the spilling of human blood? Is this your love for Syaad Harshim?"
The wife threw herself at her husband's feet, when his speech was finished:
"Pardon me, my dear husband! pardon my ignorance and self-love; I see
myself disgraced by harbouring one wish for more than is gained by honest
industry. No longer have I any desire for the gold of Nadir Shaah.
Contented as yourself, my dear, good husband! I will continue to labour
for the honest bread that sustains, nor ever again desire my condition to
be changed."'

The Woodman, Syaad Harshim, lived to a great age; many a tear hath fallen
on his grave from the good pilgrims visiting the shrine of Ali, near which
he was buried; and his resting place is reverenced to this day by the
passing traveller of his own faith.

[1] _Kafilah_.

[2] The _burqa'_: see drawing in Hughes, _Dictionary of Islam_, p. 95.

[3] Bokhara.

[4] _The Origin of the Sikhs_, by H. Colebrooke, Esq., gives a faithful
picture of those warlike people. [The best account of their beliefs
is by M. Macauliffe, _The Sikh Religion_, Oxford, 1909.]

[5] Yahya. On the capture of Damascus by the Muhammadans, the
churches were equally divided between the Christians and their
conquerors. The great Cathedral of St. John was similarly divided,
and for eighty years the two religions worshipped under the same
roof.--Arnold, _The Preaching of Islam_, p. 50.

[6] A vulgar corruption of Jame' Masjid, the Cathedral Mosque.

[7] On the taboos attached to the sanctuary, see Burton, _Pilgrimage_,
i. 379 f.

[8] At-Ta'if, meaning 'circumambulation'. When Adam settled at Mecca,
finding the country barren, he prayed to Allah to supply him with a
piece of fertile land. Immediately a mountain appeared, which, having
circumambulated the Ka'aba, settled itself down eastward of Mecca.
Hence it was called Kita min Sham, 'a piece of Syria,' whence it
came. (Burton, ii. 336.) 'Its fertile lands produce the fruits of
Syria in the midst of the Arabian desert' ( Gibbon, _Decline and Fall_,
vi. 255).

[9] At Mecca are 'evident signs, with the standing place of Abraham; and
he who enters it is safe' _(Koran_, iii. 90). On the north side of
the Ka'aba, just by its door, is a slight hollow in the ground, lined
with marble. The spot is called Mi'jan, and it is supposed to be the
place where Abraham and Ishmael kneaded the chalk which they used in
building the Ka'aba: the stone, with the mark of Abraham's feet, is
shown.--Burckhardt, quoted by Hughes, _Dictionary of Islam_, p. 337;
Burton, ii. 311; Sale, _Preliminary Discourse_, p. 84.

[10] The Asiatics, generally, have faith in certain properties of chemical
productions to alter the nature of the common to the precious metals.
I have often witnessed the anxious exertions of Natives in India, who
try all sorts of experiments in alchemy, expecting to succeed; but I
have never known any other issue from the many laborious efforts of
individuals than waste of time and property in these absurd schemes.

[11] One of the best-known versions of this famous tale is found in _The
Decameron_ of Boccaccio, Day 5, novel 9. It goes back to Buddhist
times, and is told of Hatim Tai, the model of Oriental
liberality. For numerous parallels, see A.C. Lee, _The Decameron of
Boccaccio, its Sources and Analogues_, 1909, pp. 170 ff.

[12] _Labada_, 'a rain coat, wrapper'.

[13] This is probably some local tradition, of which no record appears in
travellers' accounts of the Ka'aba.

[14] On the north-west side of the Ka'aba is a water-spout, called
Mi'zabu'r-Rahmah, 'the spout of Mercy'. It is made of gold, and was
sent from Constantinople in A.D. 1573. It carries the rain-water from
the roof, and discharges it on the grave of Ishmael.--Hughes,
_Dictionary of Islam_, pp. 257, 337.

[15] The Sharif, 'honourable,' is the local ruler of Mecca and the
Hajaz: see _Encyclopaedia Britannica_, xvii. 952; Burton,
_Pilgrimage_, ii. 3.

[16] _As-Salamu-'alai-kum_, 'Peace be with you!'

[17] Nadir Shah, born a shepherd, A.D. 1687, aided Shah Tahmasp
against Ashraf, leader of the Afghans, defeated him, and restored
his master in 1730. Afterwards he deposed Tahmasp, and raised his
infant son to the throne of Persia, under the title of 'Abbas III.
But he continued to rule the country, and on the death of 'Abbas in
1736 he became king. He marched on India in 1739, defeated the Emperor
Muhammad on the historic field of Panipat, sacked Delhi, and
perpetrated a horrible massacre. He returned to Persia laden with
spoil, but his tyranny excited the hostility of the nobles, and he was
assassinated in 1747, and buried at Mashhad.

[18] Sayyid Hashim.

[19] _Alkhalaq_, Turkish, 'a coat with sleeves'.


The Zuckhaut (God's portion).--Syaads restricted the benefit of this
charity.--The Sutkah.--The Emaum's Zaumunee (protection).--The Tenths,
or Syaads' Due.--Mussulmauns attribute thanks to God only, for all
benefits conferred.--Extracts from the 'Hyaatool Kaaloob'.--Mahumud's
advice.--His precepts tend to inculcate and encourage
charity.--Remarks on the benevolence of Mussulmauns.

On the subject of Zuckhaut, commanded by Mahumud to his followers, I shall
have little to remark;--the nature of the institute is intended to oblige
mankind to share with the poor a due portion of those benefits they have
received through the bounty of Divine Providence. Every Mussulmaun is
expected by this law to set apart from his annual income one-fortieth part,
denominated Zuckhaut (God's portion), for the sole benefit of the poor. I
believe there are not many,--judging by what I have witnessed among the
Mussulmaun population of Hindoostaun,--who do not expend a much larger
portion of their yearly income in charitable donations, than the enjoined
fortieth part.

The poor Syaads are not allowed to receive any relief from 'the
Zuckhaut'[1]; they being of the Prophet's blood, are not to be included
with the indigent for whom these donations are generally set apart. The
strict Mussulmaun of the Sheah sect usually deducts one-tenth[2] from
whatever money comes into his possession as 'the Syaads' due', to whom it
is distributed, as proper objects present themselves to his knowledge;
much in the same way as the tribe of Levi are entitled to the tenth of the
produce from their brethren of Israel by the Mosaic law.

The Syaads are likewise restricted from accepting many other charitable
offerings,--sutkah for instance--by which is meant the several things
composing peace-offerings, offerings in atonement, &c. The better to
explain this I must here describe some of the habits of the Mussulmaun
population:--When any person escapes from a threatened danger, or accident,
their friends send offerings of corn, oil, and money; all that is thus
sent to the person preserved, must be touched by his hand and then
distributed amongst the poor and needy.

If any member of a family be ill, a tray is filled with corn, and some
money laid on it: it is then placed under the bed of the sick person for
the night; in the morning this is to be distributed amongst the poor. Some
people cook bread, and place it in the same way with money under the bed
of the sick. All these things are called Sutkah[3] in whatever form they
are planned, which is done in a variety of ways; and, when distributed to
the poor, are never to be offered to, nor allowed to be accepted by, the
Syaad race. The scapegoat, an animal in good health and without blemish,
is another offering of the Sutkah denomination: a Syaad is not allowed to
be one of the number to run after the goat released from the sick chamber.

When any one is going a journey, the friends send bands of silk or riband,
in the folds of which are secured silver or gold coins; these are to be
tied on the arm of the person projecting the journey, and such offerings
are called 'Emaum Zaumunee',[4] or the Emaum's protection. Should the
traveller be distressed on his journey, he may, without blame, make use of
any such deposits tied on his arm, but only in emergencies; none such
occurring, he is expected, when his journey is accomplished in safety, to
divide all these offerings of his friends amongst righteous people. The
Syaads may accept these gifts, such being considered holy,--paak[5] is the
original word used, literally clean.

They believe the Emaums have knowledge of such things as pertain to the
followers of Mahumud and his descendants. Thus they will say, when
desiring blessings and comforts for another person, 'Emaum Zaumunee,
Zaumunee toom kero!'[6] may the Emaums protect you, and give you their
safe support!

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