Part 6 out of 8
reverentially upon his feet; sat down with importance, monopolised the
conversation; and, departing in a dignified manner, expected all to
stand on the occasion.
The Jihad (Holy War), as usual, was the grand topic of conversation.
The Sultan had ordered the Czar to become a Moslem. The Czar had sued
for peace, and offered tribute and fealty. But the Sultan had exclaimed-
"No, by Allah! Al-Islam!"
[p.292] The Czar could not be expected to take such a step without a
little hesitation, but "Allah smites the faces of the Infidels!" Abd
al-Majid would dispose of the "Moskow[FN#11]" in a short time; after
which he would turn his victorious army against all the idolaters of
Feringistan, beginning with the English, the French, and the Arwam or
Greeks.[FN#12] Amongst much of this nonsense,-when applied to for my
opinion, I was careful to make it popular,-I heard news foreboding no
good to my journey towards Maskat. The Badawin had decided that there
was to be an "Arab contingent," and had been looking forward to the
spoils of Europe: this caused quarrels, as all the men wanted to go,
and not a ten-year-old would be left behind. The consequence was, that
this amiable people was fighting in all directions. At least so said
the visitors, and I afterwards found out that they were not far wrong.
The Samman is a great family, in numbers as in dignity; from 8 A.M.
till mid-day therefore the Majlis was crowded with people, and
politeness delayed our breakfasts until an unconscionable hour.
To the plague of strangers succeeded that of children. No sooner did
the parlour become, comparatively speaking, vacant than they rushed in
en masse, treading upon our toes, making the noise of a nursery of
madlings, pulling to pieces everything they could lay their hands upon,
and using language that would have alarmed an old
man-o'war's-man.[FN#13] In fact, no one can conceive the plague but
[p.293] those who have studied the "enfan[t]s terribles" which India
sends home in cargoes.
One urchin, scarcely three years old, told me, because I objected to
his perching upon my wounded foot, that his father had a sword at home
with which he would cut my throat from ear to ear, suiting the action
to the word. By a few taunts, I made the little wretch furious with
rage; he shook his infant fist at me, and then opening his enormous
round black eyes to their utmost stretch, he looked at me, and licked
his knee with portentous meaning. Shaykh Hamid, happening to come in at
the moment, stood aghast at the doorway, chin in hand, to see the
Effendi subject to such indignity; and it was not without trouble that
I saved the offender from summary nursery discipline. Another scamp
caught up one of my loaded pistols before I could snatch it out of his
hand, and clapped it to his neighbour's head; fortunately, it was on
half-cock, and the trigger was stiff. Then a serious and majestic boy
about six years old, with an inkstand in his belt, in token of his
receiving a literary education, seized my pipe and began to smoke it
with huge puffs. I ventured laughingly to institute a comparison
between the length of his person and the pipe-stick, when he threw it
upon the ground, and stared at me fixedly with flaming eyes and
features distorted by anger. The cause of this "bouldness" soon
appeared. The boys, instead of being well beaten, were scolded with
fierce faces, a mode of punishment which only made them laugh.
They had their redeeming points, however; they were manly angry boys,
who punched one another like Anglo-Saxons in the house, whilst abroad
they were always
[p.294] fighting with sticks and stones. And they examined our
weapons,-before deigning to look at anything else,-as if eighteen
instead of five had been the general age.
At last I so far broke through the laws of Arab politeness as to inform
my host in plain words-how inconceivably wretched the boy Mohammed was
thereby rendered!-that I was hungry, thirsty, and sleepy, and that I
wanted to be alone before visiting the Harim. The good-natured Shaykh,
who was preparing to go out at once in order to pray before his
father's grave, immediately brought me breakfast; lighted a pipe,
spread a bed, darkened the room, turned out the children, and left me
to the society I most desired-my own. I then overheard him summon his
mother, wife, and other female relatives into the store-room, where his
treasures had been carefully stowed away. During the forenoon, in the
presence of the visitors, one of Hamid's uncles had urged him, half
jocularly, to bring out the Sahharah. The Shaykh did not care to do
anything of the kind. Every time a new box is opened in this part of
the world, the owner's generosity is appealed to by those whom a
refusal offends, and he must allow himself to be plundered with the
best possible grace. Hamid therefore prudently suffered all to depart
before exhibiting his spoils; which, to judge by the exclamations of
delight which they elicited from feminine lips, proved highly
satisfactory to those most concerned.
After sleeping, we all set out in a body to the Harim, as this is a
duty which must not be delayed by the pious. The boy Mohammed was in
better spirits, the effect of having borrowed from Hamid, amongst other
articles of clothing, an exceedingly gaudy embroidered coat. As for
Shaykh Nur, he had brushed up his Tarbush, and, by means of some
cast-off dresses of mine, had made himself look like a respectable
Abyssinian slave, in a nondescript toilette, half Turkish, half Indian.
I propose to reserve
[p.295] the ceremony of Ziyarat, or Visitation, for another chapter,
and to conclude this with a short account of our style of living at the
Shaykh's hospitable house.
Hamid's abode is a small corner building, open on the North and East to
the Barr al-Manakhah: the ground floor shows only a kind of vestibule,
in which coarse articles, like old Shugdufs, mats and bits of sacking,
are lying about; the rest are devoted to purposes of sewerage.
Ascending dark winding steps of ragged stone covered with hard black
earth, you come to the first floor, where the men live. It consists of
two rooms to the front of the house, one a Majlis, and another
converted into a store. Behind them is a dark passage, into which the
doors open; and the back part of the first story is a long windowless
room, containing a Hanafiyah,[FN#14] or large copper water-pot, and
other conveniences for purification. On the second floor is the
kitchen, which I did not inspect, it being as usual occupied by the
The Majlis has dwarf windows, or rather apertures in the northern and
eastern walls, with rude wooden shutters and reed blinds; the
embrasures being garnished with cushions, where you sit, morning and
evening, to enjoy the cool air. The ceiling is of date-sticks laid
across palm-rafters stained red, and the walls are of rough scoriae,
burnt bricks, and wood-work cemented with lime. The only signs of
furniture in the sitting-room are a Diwan[FN#15] round the sides and a
carpet in the centre. A
[p.296] huge wooden box, like a seaman's chest, occupies one of the
corners. In the southern wall there is a Suffah, or little shelf of
common stone, sunk under a single arch; upon this are placed articles
in hourly use, perfume-bottles, coffee-cups, a stray book or two, and
sometimes a turband, to be out of the children's way. Two hooks on the
western wall, hung jealously high up, hold a pair of pistols with
handsome crimson cords and tassels, and half a dozen cherry-stick
pipes. The centre of the room is never without one or more
Shishas[FN#16] (water pipes), and in the corner is a large copper
brazier containing fire, with all the utensils for making coffee either
disposed upon its broad brim or lying about the floor. The passage,
like the stairs, is spread over with hard black earth, and is regularly
watered twice a day during the hot weather.
The household consisted of Hamid's mother, wife, some nephews and
nieces, small children who ran about in a half-wild and more than
half-nude state, and two African slave girls. When the Damascus Caravan
[p.297] in, it was further reinforced by the arrival of his three
Though the house was not grand, it was made lively by the varied views
out of the Majlis' windows. From the East, you looked upon the square
Al-Barr, the town walls and houses beyond it, the Egyptian gate, the
lofty minarets of the Harim, and the distant outlines of Jabal
Ohod.[FN#17] The north commanded a prospect of Mohammed's Mosque, one
of the Khamsah Masajid,[FN#18] or the five suburban Mosques[FN#19]; of
part of the fort-wall; and, when the Damascus Caravan came in, of the
gay scene of the "Prado" beneath. The Majlis was tolerably cool during
the early part of the day: in the afternoon the sun shone fiercely upon
it. I have described the establishment at some length as a specimen of
how the middle classes are lodged at Al-Madinah. The upper ranks affect
Turkish and Egyptian luxuries in their homes, as I had an opportunity
of seeing at Omar Effendi's house in the "Barr;" and in these countries
the abodes of the poor are everywhere very similar.
Our life in Shaykh Hamid's house was quiet, but not disagreeable. I
never once set eyes upon the face of woman, unless the African slave
girls be allowed the title. Even these at first attempted to draw their
ragged veils over their sable charms, and would not answer the simplest
question; by degrees they allowed me to see them, and they ventured
their voices to reply to me; still they never threw off a certain
appearance of shame.[FN#20]
[p.298] I never saw, nor even heard, the youthful mistress of the
household, who stayed all day in the upper rooms. The old lady, Hamid's
mother, would stand upon the stairs, and converse aloud with her son,
and, when few people were about the house, with me. She never, however,
as afterwards happened to an ancient dame at Meccah, came and sat by my
When lying during mid-day in the gallery, I often saw parties of women
mount the stairs to the Gynaeconitis, and sometimes an individual would
stand to shake a muffled hand[FN#21] with Hamid, to gossip awhile, and
to put some questions concerning absent friends; but they were most
decorously wrapped up, nor did they ever deign to deroger, even by
exposing an inch of cheek.
At dawn we arose, washed, prayed, and broke our fast[FN#22] upon a
crust of stale bread, before smoking a pipe, and drinking a cup of
coffee.[FN#23] Then it was time to dress, to mount, and to visit the
Harim or one of the Holy Places outside the city. Returning before the
sun became intolerable, we sat together, and with conversation, Shishas
and Chibuks,[FN#24] coffee, and cold water perfumed with
mastich-smoke,[FN#25] we whiled away the time till our
[p.299] "Ariston," a dinner which appeared at the primitive hour of 11
A.M. The meal, here called Al-Ghada, was served in the Majlis on a
large copper tray, sent from the upper apartments. Ejaculating
"Bismillah"-the Moslem "grace"-we all sat round it, and dipped equal
hands in the dishes set before us. We had usually unleavened bread,
different kinds of meat and vegetable stews; and, at the end of the
first course, plain boiled rice eaten with spoons; then came the
fruits, fresh dates, grapes, and pomegranates.
After dinner I used invariably to find some excuse-such as the habit of
a "Kaylulah[FN#26]" (mid-day siesta) or the being a "Saudawi[FN#27]"-a
person of melancholy temperament-to have a rug spread in the dark
[p.300] the Majlis; and there to lie reading, dozing, smoking, or
writing, en cachette, in complete deshabille, all through the worst
part of the day, from noon to sunset.
Then came the hour for receiving or paying visits. We still kept up an
intimacy with Omar Effendi and Sa'ad the Demon, although Salih Skakkar
and Amm Jamal, either disliking our society, or perhaps thinking our
sphere of life too humble for their dignity, did not appear once in
Hamid's house. The evening prayers ensued, either at home, or in the
Harim, followed by our Asha or "deipnon," another substantial meal like
the dinner, but more plentiful, of bread, meat, vegetables, plain rice
and fruits, concluding with the invariable pipes and coffee.
To pass our soiree, we occasionally dressed in common clothes,
shouldered a Nabbut,[FN#28] and went to the cafe; sometimes on festive
occasions we indulged in a Taatumah (or Itmiyah), a late supper of
sweetmeats, pomegranates, and dried fruits. Usually we sat upon
mattresses spread upon the ground in the open air at the Shaykh's door;
receiving evening visits, chatting, telling stories, and making merry,
till each, as he felt the approach of the drowsy god, sank down into
his proper place, and fell asleep.
Whatever may be the heat of the day, the night at Al-Madinah, owing, I
suppose, to its elevated position, is cool and pleasant. In order to
allay the dust, the ground before the Shaykh's door was watered every
evening, and the evaporation was almost too great to be safe,-the boy
Mohammed suffered from a smart attack of lumbago,
[p.301] which, however, yielded readily to frictions of olive oil in
which ginger had been boiled.
Our greatest inconvenience at night-time was the pugnacity of the
animal creation. The horses of the troopers tethered in the Barr were
sure to break loose once in twelve hours. Some hobbled old nag, having
slipped the headstall, would advance with kangaroo-leaps towards a
neighbour against whom it had a private grudge. Their heads would touch
for a moment; then came a snort and a whinny, a furious kick, and,
lastly, a second horse loose and dashing about with head and tail
viciously cocked. This was the signal for a general breaking of halters
and heel-ropes; after which, a "stampede" scoured the plain, galloping,
rearing, kicking, biting, snorting, pawing, and screaming, with the
dogs barking sympathetically, and the horse-keepers shouting in hot
It was a strange sight to see by moonlight the forms of these "demon
steeds" exaggerated by the shades; and, on more than one occasion, we
had all to start up precipitately from our beds, and yield them to a
couple of combatants who were determined to fight out their quarrel a
l'outrance, wherever the battle-field might be.
The dogs at Al-Madinah are not less pugnacious than the horses.[FN#29]
They are stronger and braver than those that haunt the streets at
Cairo; like the Egyptians, they have amongst themselves a system of
police regulations, which brings down all the posse comitatus upon the
unhappy straggler who ventures into a strange quarter of the town. They
certainly met in Al-Barr upon common
[p.302] ground, to decide the differences which must arise in so
artificial a state of canine society.
Having had many opportunities of watching them, I can positively assert
that they were divided into two parties, which fought with a skill and
an acharnement that astounded me. Sometimes when one side gave way, and
as the retreat was degenerating into a sauve qui peut, some proud
warrior, a dog-hero, would sacrifice himself for the public weal, and
with gnashing teeth and howls of rage encounter the assaults of the
insolent victors until his flying friends had time to recover heart.
Such an one my companions called "Mubariz.[FN#30]" At other times, some
huge animal, an Ajax of his kind, would plunge into the ring with
frantic yells, roll over one dog, snap at a second, worry a third for a
minute or two, and then dash off to a distant part, where a thicker
field required his presence. This uncommon sagacity has been remarked
by the Arabs, who look on amused at their battles. Current in Al-Hijaz
are also certain superstitions about the dog resembling ours; only, as
usual, more poetical and less grotesque. Most people believe that when
the animal howls without apparent cause in the neighbourhood of a
house, it forbodes death to one of the inmates; for the dog they say
can distinguish the awful form of Azrail, the Angel of Death, hovering
over the doomed abode, whereas man's spiritual sight is dull and dim by
reason of his sins.
When the Damascus Caravan entered Al-Madinah, our day became a little
more amusing. From the windows of Shaykh Hamid's house there was a
perpetual succession of strange scenes. A Persian nobleman, also, had
pitched his tents so near the door, that the whole course of his
private life became public and patent to the boy Mohammed,
[p.303] who amused his companions by reporting all manner of ludicrous
scenes. The Persian's wife was rather a pretty woman, and she excited
the youth's fierce indignation, by not veiling her face when he gazed
at her,-thereby showing that, as his beard was not grown, she
considered him a mere boy.
"I will ask her to marry me," said Mohammed, "and thereby rouse her
He did so, but, unhappy youth! the fair Persian never even ceased
The boy Mohammed was for once confounded.
[FN#1] In the East, wherever there is a compound of fort and city, that
place has certainly been in the habit of being divided against itself.
Surat in Western India is a well-known instance. I must refer the
reader to Burckhardt (Travels in Arabia, vol. ii., page 281, and
onwards) for a detailed account of the feuds and affrays between the
"Agha of the Castle" and the "Agha of the Town." Their day has now gone
by,-for the moment.
[FN#2] Sir John Mandeville, writing in the 14th century, informed
Europe that "Machomet lyeth in the Cytee of Methone." In the 19th
century, Mr. Halliwell, his editor, teaches us in a foot-note that
"Methone" is Meccah! It is strange how often this gross mistake is
still made by respectable authors in France as well as in England.
[FN#3] This torrent is called Al-Sayh,-"the Running Water,"-which,
properly speaking, is the name of a well-wooded Wady outside the town,
in the direction of Kuba.
[FN#4] "Manakhah" is a place where camels kneel down; it is a
derivation from the better known root to "Nakh," or cause the animal to
[FN#5] Arabs, and, indeed, most Orientals, are generally received after
returning from a journey, with shrill cries of joy by all the fair part
of the household, and they do not like strangers to hear this
[FN#6] An Eastern Barber is not content to pass the razor over hairy
spots: he must scrape the forehead, trim the eyebrows, clean the
cheeks, run the blade rapidly over the nose, correct the upper and
under lines of the mustaches, parting them in the centre, and so on.
[FN#7] Halaili is a cotton stuff, with long stripes of white silk, a
favourite material amongst the city Arabs. At Constantinople, where the
best is sold, the piece, which will cut into two shirts, costs about
[FN#8] The "Mizz" (in colloquial Arabic Misd) are the tight-fitting
inner slippers of soft Cordovan leather, worn as stockings inside the
slipper; they are always clean, so they may be retained in the Mosque
or on the Diwan (divan or sofa).
[FN#9] The Majlis ("the Place of Sitting") is the drawing or reception
room; it is usually in the first story of the house, below the
apartments of the women.
[FN#10] The coffee drank at Al-Madinah is generally of a good quality.
In Egypt that beverage in the common coffee-shops is,-as required to be
by the people who frequent those places,-"bitter as death, black as
Satan, and hot as Jahannam." To effect this desideratum, therefore,
they toast the grain to blackness, boil it to bitterness, and then
drink scalding stuff of the consistency of water-gruel. At Al-Madinah,
on the contrary,-as indeed in the houses of the better classes even in
Egypt,-the grain is carefully picked, and that the flavour may be
preserved, it is never put upon the fire until required. It is toasted
too till it becomes yellow, not black; and afterwards is bruised, not
pounded to powder. The water into which it is thrown is allowed to boil
up three times, after which a cold sprinkling is administered to clear
it, and then the fine light-dun infusion is poured off into another
pot. Those who admire the "Kaimak," or froth, do not use a second
vessel. The Arabs seldom drink more than one cup of coffee at a time,
but with many the time is every half-hour of the day. The coffee-husk
or "Kishr" of Al-Yaman is here unknown.
[FN#11] The common name for the Russians in Egypt and Al-Hijaz.
[FN#12] The Greeks are well known at Al-Madinah, and several of the
historians complain that some of the minor holy places had fallen into
the hands of this race, (Moslems, or pretended Moslems, I presume), who
prevented people visiting them. It is curious that the impostor
Cagliostro should have hit upon the truth when he located Greeks at
[FN#13] Parents and full-grown men amuse themselves with grossly
abusing children, almost as soon as they can speak, in order to excite
their rage, and to judge of their dispositions. This supplies the
infant population with a large stock-in-trade of ribaldry. They
literally lisp in bad language.
[FN#14] The Hanafiyah is a large vessel of copper, sometimes tinned,
with a cock in the lower part, and, generally, an ewer, or a basin, to
receive the water.
[FN#15] It is wonderful that this most comfortable, inexpensive, and
ornamental style of furnishing a room, has not been oftener imitated in
India and the hot countries of Europe. The Diwan-it must not be
confounded with the leathern perversion which obtains that name in our
club smoking-rooms-is a line of flat cushions ranged round the room,
either placed upon the ground, or on wooden benches, or on a step of
masonry; varying in height according to the fashion of the day. When
such foundation is used, it should be about a yard in breadth, and
slope very gently from the outer edge towards the wall, for the greater
convenience of reclining. Cotton-stuffed pillows, covered with chintz
for summer, and silk for winter, are placed against the wall, and can
be moved to make a luxurious heap; their covers are generally all of
the same colour, except those at the end. The seat of honour is denoted
by a small square cotton-stuffed silk coverlet, placed in one of the
corners, which the position of the windows determines, the place of
distinction being on the left of the host. Thus in Egypt you have a
neatly-furnished room for L5 or L6.
[FN#16] The Madinah Shisha is a large cocoa-nut, with a tall wooden
stem, both garnished with brass ornaments; some trifling differences in
the latter distinguish it from the Meccah pipe. Both are inconveniently
mounted upon small brass tripods, and are easily overturned, scattering
fire and water over the carpets. The "lay," or snakes, are the
substantial manufacture of Al-Yaman. Some grandees at Al-Madinah have
glass Turkish Shishas and Constantinople snakes, which are of admirable
elegance, compared with the clumsy and unsightly Arab inventions. (See
page 80, ante.)
[FN#17] From this window I sketched the walls and the Egyptian gate of
[FN#18] "Five mosques."
[FN#19] This Mosque must not be confounded with the Harim. It is
described in Chapter XV.
[FN#20] Their voices are strangely soft and delicate, considering the
appearance of the organs from which they proceed. Possibly this may be
a characteristic of the African races; it is remarkable amongst the
[FN#21] After touching the skin of a strange woman, it is not lawful in
Al-Islam to pray without ablution. For this reason, when a fair dame
shakes hands with you, she wraps up her fingers in a kerchief, or in
the end of her veil.
[FN#22] Nafukku'r rik, literally, "Let us open the saliva," is most
idiomatic Hijazi for the first morsel eaten in the morning. Hence it is
called Fakkur' rik, also Gura and Tasbih: the Egyptians call it
[FN#23] Orientals invariably begin by eating an "akratisma" in the
morning before they will smoke a pipe, or drink a cup of coffee; they
have also an insuperable prejudice against the internal use of cold
water at this hour.
[FN#24] The tobacco generally smoked here is Syrian, which is brought
down in large quantities by the Damascus caravan. Latakia is more
expensive, and generally too dry to retain its flavour.
[FN#25] The interior of the water jar is here perfumed with the smoke
of mastich, exactly as described by Lane, (Mod. Egyptians, vol i. ch.
5). I found at Al-Madinah the prejudice alluded to by Sonnini, namely,
that the fumes of the gum are prejudicial, and sometimes fatal to
[FN#26] Kaylulah is the half hour's siesta about noon. It is a Sunnat,
and the Prophet said of it, "Kilu, fa inna 'sh' Shayatina la
Takil,"-"Take the mid-day siesta, for, verily, the demons sleep not at
this hour." "Aylulah" is slumbering after morning prayers (our "beauty
sleep"), which causes heaviness and inability to work. Ghaylulah is the
sleeping about 9 A.M., the effect of which is poverty and wretchedness.
Kaylulah (with the guttural kaf) is sleeping before evening prayers, a
practice reprobated in every part of the East. And, finally, Faylulah
is sleeping immediately after sunset,-also considered highly
[FN#27] The Arabs, who suffer greatly from melancholia, are kind to
people afflicted with this complaint; it is supposed to cause a
distaste for society, and a longing for solitude, an unsettled habit of
mind, and a neglect of worldly affairs. Probably it is the effect of
overworking the brain, in a hot dry atmosphere. I have remarked, that
in Arabia students are subject to it, and that amongst their
philosophers and literary men, there is scarcely an individual who was
not spoken of as a "Saudawi." My friend Omar Effendi used to complain,
that at times his temperament drove him out of the house,-so much did
he dislike the sound of the human voice,-to pass the day seated upon
some eminence in the vicinity of the city.
[FN#28] This habit of going out at night in common clothes, with a
Nabbut upon one's shoulders, is, as far as I could discover, popular at
Al-Madinah, but confined to the lowest classes at Meccah. The boy
Mohammed always spoke of it with undisguised disapprobation. During my
stay at Meccah, I saw no such costume amongst respectable people there;
though oftentimes there was a suspicion of a disguise.
[FN#29] Burckhardt (Travels in Arabia, vol. ii., p. 268) remarks that
Al-Madinah is the only town in the East from which dogs are excluded.
This was probably as much a relic of Wahhabi-ism, (that sect hating
even to look at a dog), as arising from apprehension of the Mosque
being polluted by canine intrusion. I have seen one or two of these
animals in the town, but I was told, that when they enter it in any
numbers, the police-magistrate issues orders to have them ejected.
[FN#30] The "Mubariz" is the single combatant, the champion of the
Arabian classical and chivalrous times.
A VISIT TO THE PROPHET'S TOMB.
Having performed the greater ablution, and used the toothstick as
directed, and dressed ourselves in white clothes, which the Apostle
loved, we were ready to start upon our holy errand. As my foot still
gave me great pain, Shaykh Hamid sent for a donkey. A wretched animal
appeared, raw-backed, lame of one leg, and wanting an ear, with
accoutrements to match, a pack-saddle without stirrups, and a halter
instead of a bridle. Such as the brute was, however, I had to mount it,
and to ride through the Misri gate, to the wonder of certain Badawin,
who, like the Indians, despise the ass.
"Honourable is the riding of a horse to the rider,
But the mule is a dishonour, and the donkey a disgrace,"
says their song. The Turkish pilgrims, however, who appear to take a
pride in ignoring all Arab points of prejudice, generally mount donkeys
when they cannot walk. The Badawin therefore settled among themselves,
audibly enough, that I was an Osmanli, who of course could not
understand Arabic, and they put the question generally,
"By what curse of Allah had they been subjected to ass-riders?"
But Shaykh Hamid is lecturing me upon the subject of the Mosque.
The Masjid Al-Nabawi, or the Prophet's Mosque, is one of the Haramayn,
or the "two sanctuaries" of Al-Islam,
[p.305] and is the second of the three[FN#1] most venerable places of
worship in the world; the other two being the Masjid al-Harim at Meccah
(connected with Abraham) and the Masjid al-Aksa of Jerusalem (the
peculiar place of Solomon). A Hadis or traditional saying of Mohammed
asserts, "One prayer in this my Mosque is more efficacious than a
thousand in other places, save only the Masjid al-Harim.[FN#2]" It is
therefore the visitor's duty, as long as he stays at Al-Madinah, to
pray there the five times per diem, to pass the day in it reading the
Koran, and the night, if possible, in watching and devotion.
A visit to the Masjid al-Nabawi, and the holy spots within it, is
technically called "Ziyarat" or Visitation.[FN#3] An essential
difference is made between this rite and Hajj or pilgrimage. The latter
is obligatory by Koranic order upon every Moslem once in his life: the
former is only a meritorious action. "Tawaf," or circumambulation of
the House of Allah at Meccah, must never be performed at the Apostle's
tomb. This should not be visited in the Ihram or pilgrim dress; men
should not kiss it, touch it with the hand, or press the bosom against
it, as at the Ka'abah; or rub the face with dust collected near the
sepulchre; and those who prostrate themselves before it, like certain
ignorant Indians, are held to be
[p.306] guilty of deadly sin. On the other hand, to spit upon any part
of the Mosque, or to treat it with contempt, is held to be the act of
Thus the learned and religious have settled, one would have thought,
accurately enough the spiritual rank and dignity of the Masjid
al-Nabawi. But mankind, especially in the East, must always be in
extremes. The orthodox school of Al-Malik holds Al-Madinah, on account
of the sanctity of, and the religious benefits to be derived from,
Mohammed's tomb, more honourable than Meccah. Some declare that the
Apostle preferred his place of refuge, blessing it as Abraham did
Meccah. Moreover, as a tradition declares that every man's body is
drawn from the ground in which he is buried, Al-Madinah evidently had
the honour of supplying materials for the Apostle's person. Others,
like Omar, were uncertain which to prefer. The Wahhabis, on the other
hand, rejecting the Intercession of the Apostle on the Day of Judgment,
considering the grave of a mere mortal unworthy of notice, and highly
disgusted by the idolatrous respect paid to it by certain foolish
Moslems, plundered the sacred building with sacrilegious violence, and
forbade visitors from distant countries to enter Al-Madinah.[FN#4]
The general consensus of Al-Islam admits the superiority of the Bayt
Allah ("House of God") at Meccah to the whole world; and declares
Al-Madinah to be more venerable than every part of Meccah, and
consequently all the earth, except only the Bayt Allah. This last is a
juste milieu view by no means in favour with the inhabitants of either
place. In the meanwhile the Meccans claim unlimited superiority over
the Madani: the Madani over the Meccans.
[p.307]Passing through muddy streets,-they had been freshly watered
before evening time,-I came suddenly upon the Mosque. Like that at
Meccah, the approach is choked up by ignoble buildings, some actually
touching the holy "enceinte," others separated by a lane compared with
which the road round St. Paul's is a Vatican Square.[FN#5] There is no
outer front, no general prospect of the Prophet's Mosque; consequently,
as a building, it has neither beauty nor dignity.
And entering the Bab al-Rahmah[FN#6]-the Gate of Pity,-by a diminutive
flight of steps, I was astonished at the mean and tawdry appearance of
a place so universally venerated in the Moslem world. It is not, like
the Meccan Temple, grand and simple, the expression of a single sublime
idea: the longer I looked at it, the more it suggested the resemblance
of a museum of second-rate art, an old Curiosity-shop, full of
ornaments that are not accessories, and decorated with pauper splendour.
The Masjid al-Nabi is a parallelogram about four hundred and twenty
feet in length by three hundred and forty broad, the direction of the
long walls being nearly north and south. As usual in Al-Islam, it is a
hypaethral building with a spacious central area, called Al-Sahn,
Al-Hosh, Al-Haswah, or Al-Ramlah,[FN#7] surrounded by a peristyle with
numerous rows of pillars like the colonnades of an Italian cloister.
The arcades or porticoes are flat-ceilinged, domed above with the small
[p.308] Naranja, or half-orange cupola of Spain, and divided into four
parts by narrow passages, three or four steps below the level of the
pavement. Along the whole inner length of the Northern short wall runs
the Majidi Riwak, so called from the then reigning Sultan.[FN#8] The
Western long wall is occupied by the Riwak of the Rahmah Gate; the
Eastern by that of the Bab al-Nisa, the "Women's Entrance.[FN#9]"
Embracing the inner length of the Southern short wall, and deeper by
nearly treble the amount of columns than the other porticoes, is the
main colonnade, called Al-Rauzah[FN#10] (the Garden), the adytum
containing all that is venerable in the building. These four Riwaks,
arched externally, are supported internally by pillars of different
shape and material, varying from fine porphyry to dirty plaster. The
Southern, where the sepulchre or cenotaph stands, is paved with
handsome slabs of white marble and marquetry work, here and there
covered with coarse matting, and above this by unclean carpets, well
worn by faithful feet.[FN#11]
But this is not the time for Tafarruj or lionising.
[p.309] Shaykh Hamid warns me, with a nudge, that other things are
expected of a Zair (visitor). He leads me to the Bab al-Salam, fighting
his way through a troop of beggars, and inquires markedly if I am
religiously pure.[FN#12] Then, placing our hands a little below and on
the left of the waist, the palm of the right covering the back of the
left, in the position of prayer, and beginning with the dexter
feet,[FN#13] we pace slowly forwards down the line called the Muwajihat
al-Sharifah, or "the Illustrous Fronting," which, divided off like an
aisle, runs parallel with the Southern wall of the Mosque. On my right
hand walks the Shaykh, who recites aloud the following prayer, making
me repeat it after him.[FN#14] It is literally rendered, as, indeed,
are all the formulae, and the reader is requested to excuse the
barbarous fidelity of the translation.
"In the Name of Allah and in the faith of Allah's Apostle! O Lord,
cause me to enter the Entering of Truth, and cause me to issue forth
the Issuing of Truth, and permit me to draw near to Thee, and make me a
Sultan Victorious[FN#15]!" Then follow blessings upon the Apostle, and
afterwards: "O Allah! open to me the Doors of Thy Mercy, and grant me
Entrance into it, and protect me from the Stoned Devil!"
During this preliminary prayer we had passed down two-thirds of the
Muwajihat al-Sharifah. On the left hand is a dwarf wall, about the
height of a man, painted with arabesques, and pierced with four small
[p.310] open into the Muwajihat. In this barrier are sundry small
erections, the niche called the Mihrab Sulaymani,[FN#16] the Mambar, or
pulpit, and the Mihrab al-Nabawi.[FN#17]
The two niches are of beautiful mosaic, richly worked with various
coloured marbles, and the pulpit is a graceful collection of slender
columns, elegant tracery, and inscriptions admirably carved. Arrived at
the Western small door in the dwarf wall, we entered the celebrated
spot called Al-Rauzah, after a saying of the Apostle's, "Between my
Tomb and my Pulpit is a Garden of the Gardens of Paradise.[FN#18]" On
the North and West sides it is
[p.311] not divided from the rest of the portico; on the South runs the
dwarf wall, and on the East it is limited by the west end of the
lattice-work containing the tomb.
Accompanied by my Muzawwir I entered the Rauzah, and was placed by him
with the Mukabbariyah[FN#19] behind me, fronting Meccah, with my right
shoulder opposite to, and about twenty feet distant from, the dexter
pillar of the Apostle's Pulpit.[FN#20] There, after saying the
afternoon prayers,[FN#21] I performed the usual two bows in honour of
the temple,[FN#22] and at the end of them recited the hundred and ninth
and the hundred and twelfth chapters of the Koran-the "Kul, ya
ayyuha'l-Kafiruna," and the "Surat al-Ikhlas," called also the "Kul,
Huw' Allah," or the Declaration of Unity; and may be thus translated:
"Say, He is the one God!
"The eternal God!
"He begets not, nor is He begot!
[p.312] "And unto Him the like is not."
After which was performed a single Sujdah (Prostration) of
Thanks,[FN#23] in gratitude to Allah for making it my fate to visit so
holy a spot.
This being the recognised time to give alms, I was besieged by beggars,
who spread their napkins before us on the ground, sprinkled with a few
coppers to excite generosity. But not wishing to be distracted by them,
before leaving Hamid's house I had changed two dollars, and had given
the coin to the boy Mohammed, who accompanied me, strictly charging him
to make that sum last through the Mosque.
My answer to the beggars was a reference to my attendant, backed by the
simple action of turning my pockets inside out; and, whilst he was
battling with the beggars, I proceeded to cast my first coup-d'oeil
upon the Rauzah.
The "Garden" is the most elaborate part of the Mosque. Little can be
said in its praise by day, when it bears the same relation to a
second-rate church in Rome as an English chapel-of-ease to Westminster
Abbey. It is a space of about eighty feet in length, tawdrily decorated
so as to resemble a garden. The carpets are flowered, and the pediments
of the columns are cased with bright green tiles, and adorned to the
height of a man with gaudy and unnatural vegetation in arabesque. It is
disfigured by handsome branched candelabras of cut crystal, the work, I
believe, of a London house, and presented to the shrine by the late
Abbas Pasha of Egypt.[FN#24]
The only admirable feature of the view is the light
[p.313] cast by the windows of stained glass[FN#25] in the Southern
wall. Its peculiar background, the railing of the tomb, a splendid
filigree-work of green and polished brass, gilt or made to resemble
gold, looks more picturesque near than at a distance, when it suggests
the idea of a gigantic bird-cage. But at night the eye, dazzled by
oil-lamps[FN#26] suspended from the roof, by huge wax candles, and by
smaller illuminations falling upon crowds of visitors in handsome
attire, with the richest and the noblest of the city sitting in
congregation when service is performed,[FN#27] becomes less critical.
Still the scene must be viewed with Moslem bias, and until a man is
thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the East, the last place the
Rauzah will remind him of, is that which the architect primarily
intended it to resemble-a garden.
Then with Hamid, professionally solemn, I reassumed the position of
prayer, and retraced my steps. After passing through another small door
in the dwarf wall that bounds the Muwajihah, we did not turn to the
right, which would have led us to the Bab al-Salam; our course was in
an opposite direction, towards the Eastern wall of the temple.
Meanwhile we repeated, "Verily Allah and His Angels[FN#28] bless the
Apostle! O ye who believe, bless him,
[p.314] and salute Him with Honour!" At the end of this prayer, we
arrived at the Mausoleum, which requires some description before the
reader can understand the nature of our proceedings there.
The Hujrah[FN#29] or "Chamber" as it is called, from the circumstance
of its having been Ayishah's room, is an irregular square of from fifty
to fifty-five feet in the South-East corner of the building, and
separated on all sides from the walls of the Mosque by a passage about
twenty-six feet broad on the South side, and twenty on the East. The
reason of this isolation has been before explained, and there is a
saying of Mohammed's, "O Allah, cause not my Tomb to become an Object
of Idolatrous Adoration! May Allah's Wrath fall heavy upon the People
who make the Tombs of their Prophets Places of Prayer[FN#30]!"
[p.315] Inside there are, or are supposed to be, three tombs facing the
South, surrounded by stone walls without any aperture, or, as others
say, by strong planking.[FN#31] Whatever this material may be, it is
hung outside with a curtain, somewhat like a large four-post bed. The
external railing is separated by a dark narrow passage from the inner,
which it surrounds; and is of iron filigree painted of a vivid grass
green,-with a view to the garden. Here carefully inserted in the
verdure, and doubly bright by contrast, is the gilt or burnished brass
work forming the long and graceful letters of the Suls character, and
disposed into the Moslem creed, the Profession of Unity, and similar
On the South side, for greater honour, the railing is plated over with
silver, and silver letters are interlaced with it. This fence, which
connects the columns and forbids passage to all men, may be compared to
the baldacchino of Roman churches. It has four gates: that to the South
is the Bab al-Muwajihah; Eastward is the gate of our Lady Fatimah;
westward the Bab al-Taubah (of Repentance), opening into the Rauzah or
garden; and to the North, the Bab al-Shami or Syrian gate. They are
constantly kept closed, except the fourth, which admits, into the dark
narrow passage above alluded to, the officers who have charge of the
treasures there deposited; and the eunuchs who sweep the floor, light
[p.316] the lamps, and carry away the presents sometimes thrown in here
In the Southern side of the fence are three windows, holes about half a
foot square, and placed from four to five feet above the ground; they
are said to be between three and four cubits distant from the Apostle's
head. The most Westerly of these is supposed to front Mohammed's tomb,
wherefore it is called the Shubak al-Nabi, or the Prophet's window. The
next, on the right as you front it, is Abu Bakr's, and the most
Easterly of the three is Omar's.
Above the Hujrah is the Green Dome, surmounted outside by a large gilt
crescent springing from a series of globes. The glowing imaginations of
the Moslems crown this gem of the building with a pillar of heavenly
light, which directs from three days' distance the pilgrims' steps
towards Al-Madinah. But alas! none save holy men (and perhaps, odylic
sensitives), whose material organs are piercing as their spiritual
vision, may be allowed the privilege of beholding this poetic splendour.
Arrived at the Shubak al-Nabi, Hamid took his stand about six feet or
so out of reach of the railing, and at that respectful distance from,
and facing[FN#33] the Hazirah (or presence),
[p.317] with hands raised as in prayer, he recited the following
supplication in a low voice, telling me in a stage whisper to repeat it
after him with awe, and fear, and love:-
"Peace be upon Thee, O Apostle of Allah, and the Mercy of Allah and his
Blessings! Peace be upon Thee, O Apostle of Allah! Peace be upon Thee,
O Friend of Allah! Peace be upon Thee, O best of Allah's Creation!
Peace be upon Thee, O pure Creature of Allah! Peace be upon Thee, O
Chief of Prophets ! Peace be upon Thee, O Seal of the Prophets! Peace
be upon Thee, O Prince of the Pious! Peace be upon Thee, O Apostle of
the Lord of the (three) Worlds! Peace be upon Thee, and upon Thy
Family, and upon Thy pure Wives! Peace be upon Thee, and upon all Thy
Companions! Peace be upon Thee, and upon all the Prophets, and upon
those sent to preach Allah's Word! Peace be upon Thee, and upon all
Allah's righteous Worshippers! Peace be upon Thee, O thou Bringer of
Glad Tidings! Peace be upon Thee, O Bearer of Threats! Peace be upon
Thee, O thou bright Lamp! Peace be upon Thee, O thou Apostle of Mercy!
Peace be upon Thee, O Ruler of Thy Faith! Peace be upon Thee, O Opener
of Grief! Peace be upon Thee! and Allah bless Thee! and Allah repay
Thee for us, O Thou Apostle of Allah! the choicest of Blessings with
which He ever blessed Prophet! Allah bless Thee as often as Mentioners
have mentioned Thee, and Forgetters have forgotten Thee! And Allah
bless Thee among the First and the Last, with the best, the highest,
and the fullest of Blessings ever bestowed on Man; even as we escaped
Error by means of Thee, and were made to see after Blindness, and after
Ignorance were directed
[p.318] into the Right Way. I bear Witness that there is no god but the
God (Allah), and I testify that Thou art His Servant, and His Apostle,
and His Faithful Follower, and Best Creature. And I bear Witness, O
Apostle of Allah! that Thou hast delivered thy Message, and discharged
Thy Trust, and advised Thy Faith, and opened Grief, and published
Proofs, and fought valiantly for Thy Lord, and worshipped Thy God till
Certainty came to Thee (i.e. to the hour of death). And we Thy Friends,
O Apostle of Allah! appear before Thee, Travellers from distant lands
and far Countries, through Dangers and Difficulties, in the Times of
Darkness, and in the Hours of Day, longing to give Thee Thy Rights
(i.e. to honour Thee by benediction and visitation), and to obtain the
Blessings of Thine Intercession, for our Sins have broken our Backs,
and Thou intercedest with the Healer. And Allah said,[FN#34] ‘And
though they have injured themselves, they came to Thee, and begged Thee
to secure their Pardon, and they found God an Acceptor of Penitence,
and full of Compassion.' O Apostle of Allah, Intercession!
Intercession! Intercession[FN#35]! O Allah, bless Mohammed and
Mohammed's Family, and give Him Superiority and high Rank, even as Thou
didst promise Him, and graciously allow us to conclude this Visitation.
I deposit on this spot, and near Thee, O Apostle of God, my everlasting
Profession (of faith) from this our Day, to the Day of Judgment, that
there is no god but Allah, and that our Lord Mohammed is His Servant
and His Apostle.[FN#36] Amen! O Lord of the (three) Worlds![FN#37]"
[p.319] After which, performing Ziyarat[FN#38] for ourselves, we
repeated the Fatihah or "opening" chapter of the Koran.
"In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate!
"Praise be to Allah, who the (three) Worlds made.
"The Merciful, the Compassionate.
"The King of the Day of Faith.
"Thee (alone) do we worship, and of Thee (alone) do we ask Aid.
"Guide us to the Path that is straight-
"The Path of those for whom thy Love is great, not those on whom is
Hate, nor they that deviate.
"Amen! O Lord of Angels, Jinnis, and Men![FN#39]"
After reciting this mentally with upraised hands, the forefinger of the
right hand being extended to its full length, we drew our palms down
our faces and did alms-deeds, a vital part of the ceremony. Thus
concludes the first part of the ceremony of visitation at the Apostle's
[p.320] Hamid then stepped about a foot and half to the right, and I
followed his example, so as to place myself exactly opposite the second
aperture in the grating called Abu Bakr's window. There, making a sign
towards the mausoleum, we addressed its inmate, as follows:-
"Peace be upon Thee, O Abu Bakr, O Thou Truthful One! Peace be upon
Thee, O Caliph of Allah's Apostle over his People! Peace be upon Thee,
O Companion of the Cave, and Friend in Travel! Peace be upon Thee, O
Thou Banner of the Fugitives and the Auxiliaries! I testify Thou didst
ever stand firm in the right Way, and wast a Smiter of the Infidel, and
a Benefactor to Thine own people. Allah grant Thee through His Apostle
Weal! We pray Almighty God to cause us to die in Thy Friendship, and to
raise us up in Company with His Apostle and Thyself, even as He hath
mercifully vouchsafed to us this Visitation.[FN#40]"
After which we closed one more step to the right, and standing opposite
Omar's window, the most easterly of the three, after making a sign with
our hands, we addressed the just Caliph in these words:-
"Peace be upon Thee, O Omar! O Thou Just One! Thou Prince of True
Believers! Peace be upon Thee, who spakest with Truth, and who madest
Thy Word agree with the Strong Book! (the Koran): O Thou Faruk! (the
Separator).[FN#41] O Thou Faithful One! who girdedst thy Loins with the
Apostle, and the First Believers, and with them didst make up the full
Number forty,[FN#42] and thus causedst to be accomplished the Apostle's
[p.321] then didst return to Thy God a Martyr leaving the World with
Praise! Allah grant Thee, through his Apostle and his Caliph and his
Followers, the best of Good, and may Allah feel in Thee plenary
Shaykh Hamid, after wrenching a beggar or two from my shoulders, then
permitted me to draw near to the little window, called the Apostle's,
and to look in. Here my proceedings were watched with suspicious eyes.
The Persians have sometimes managed to pollute the part near Abu Bakr's
and Omar's graves by tossing through the aperture what is externally a
handsome shawl intended as a present for the tomb.[FN#44] After
straining my eyes for a time, I saw a curtain,[FN#45] or rather
[p.322] three inscriptions in long gold letters, informing readers that
behind them lie Allah's Apostle and the first two Caliphs.
The exact place of Mohammed's tomb is moreover distinguished by a large
pearl rosary, and a peculiar ornament, the celebrated Kaukab-al-Durri,
or constellation of pearls, suspended to the curtain
breast-high.[FN#46] This is described to be a "brilliant star set in
diamonds and pearls," placed in the dark that man's eye may be able to
bear its splendours: the vulgar believe it to be a "jewel of the jewels
of Paradise." To me it greatly resembled the round glass stoppers used
for the humbler sort of decanters; but I thought the same of the
Koh-i-Nur. Moreover I never saw it quite near enough to judge fairly,
and I did not think fit to pay an exorbitant sum for the privilege of
entering the inner passage of the baldaquin.[FN#47]
[p.323] Altogether the coup-d'oeil had nothing to recommend it by day.
At night, when the lamps, hung in this passage, shed a dim light upon
the mosaic-work of the marble floors, upon the glittering inscriptions,
and the massive hangings, the scene is more impressive.
Never having seen the Tomb,[FN#48] I must depict it from books,-by no
means an easy task. Most of the historians are silent after describing
the inner walls of the Hujrah. Al-Kalkashandi declares in eo lapidem
nobilem continere sepulchra Apostoli, Abubecr et Omar, circumcinctum
peribole in modum conclavis fere usque ad tectum assurgente, quae velo
serico nigro obligatur. This author, then, agrees with my Persian
friends, who declare the sepulchre to be a marble slab. Ibn Jubayr, who
travelled in A.H. 580, relates that the Apostle's coffin is a box of
ebony (abnus) covered with sandal-wood, and plated with silver; it is
placed, he says, behind a curtain, and surrounded by an iron grating.
Al-Samanhudi,[FN#49] quoted by Burckhardt, declares that the curtain
covers a square building of black stones, in the interior of which are
the tombs of Mohammed and of his two immediate successors. He adds that
the tombs are
[p.324] deep holes; and that the coffin which contains the Apostle is
cased with silver, and has on the top a marble slab inscribed
"Bismillah! Allahumma salli alayh!" ("In the name of Allah! Allah have
Mercy upon Him[FN#50]!")
The Apostle's body, it should be remembered, lies, or is supposed to
lie, stretched at full length on the right side, with the right palm
supporting the right cheek, the face fronting Meccah, as Moslems are
always buried, and consequently the body lies with the head almost due
West and the feet due East. Close behind him is placed Abu Bakr, whose
face fronts the Apostle's shoulder[FN#51]; and, lastly, Omar holds the
same position with respect to his predecessor.
The places they are usually supposed to occupy, then, would be thus
disposed. But Moslem historians are not agreed even upon so simple a
point as this. [p.325] Many prefer this position, in line [figure]
-some thus, in unicorn [figure] -and others the right angle.[FN#52]
It is popularly asserted that in the Hujrah there is now spare place
for only a single grave, reserved for Isa bin Maryam after his second
coming. The historians of Al-Islam are full of tales proving that
though many of their earlier saints, as Osman the Caliph and Hasan the
Imam, were desirous of being buried there; and that although Ayishah,
to whom the room belonged, willingly acceded to their wishes, son of
man has as yet been unable to occupy it.
After the Fatihah pronounced at Omar's tomb, and the short inspection
of the Hujrah, Shaykh Hamid led me round the south-east corner of the
[p.326] towards the north, we stopped at what is commonly called the
Mahbat Jibrail ("Place of the Archangel Gabriel's Descent with the
Heavenly Revelations"), or simply Al-Malaikah-the Angels. It is a small
window in the Eastern wall of the Mosque; we turned our backs upon it,
and fronting the Hujrah, recited the following prayer:-
"Peace be upon You, O Angels of Allah, the Mukarrabin (cherubs), and
the Musharrifin (seraphs), the pure, the holy, honored by the Dwellers
in Heaven, and by those who abide upon the Earth. O beneficent Lord! O
Long-suffering! O Almighty! O Pitier! O thou Compassionate One! perfect
our Light, and pardon our Sins, and accept Penitence for our Offences,
and cause us to die among the Holy! Peace be upon Ye, Angels of the
Merciful, one and all! And the Mercy of God and His Blessings be upon
You!" After which I was shown the spot in the Hujrah where Sayyidna Isa
shall be buried[FN#54] by Mohammed's side.
[p.327] Then turning towards the West, at a point where there is a
break in the symmetry of the Hujrah, we arrived at the sixth station,
the sepulchre or cenotaph of the Lady Fatimah. Her grave is outside the
enceinte and the curtain which surrounds her father's remains; so
strict is Moslem decorum, and so exalted its opinion of the
"Virgin's"[FN#55] delicacy. The Eastern side of the Hujrah, here
turning a little Westward, interrupts the shape of the square, in order
to give this spot the appearance of disconnection with the rest of the
building. The tomb, seen through a square aperture like those above
described, is a long catafalque, covered with a black pall. Though
there is great doubt whether the Lady be not buried with her son Hassan
in the Bakia cemetery, this place is always visited by the pious
Moslem. The following is the prayer opposite the grave of the amiable
"Peace be upon Thee, Daughter of the Apostle of Allah! Peace be upon
Thee, Daughter of the Prophet of Allah! Peace be upon Thee, thou
Daughter of Mustafa! Peace be upon Thee, thou Mother of the
Shurafa![FN#56] (seed of Mohammed.) Peace be upon Thee, O Lady amongst
Women! Peace be upon Thee, O fifth of the Ahl al-Kisa![FN#57] Peace be
upon Thee, O Zahra and Batul![FN#58] (Pure and Virgin).
[p.328] Peace be upon Thee, O Daughter of the Apostle! Peace be upon
Thee, O Spouse of our Lord Ali al-Murtaza! Peace be upon Thee, O Mother
of Hasan and Husayn, the two Moons, the two Lights, the two Pearls, the
two Princes of the Youth of Heaven, and Coolness of the Eyes[FN#59]
(i.e. joy and gladness) of true Believers! Peace be upon Thee, and upon
Thy Sire, Al-Mustafa, and Thy Husband, our Lord Ali! Allah honour his
Face, and Thy Face, and Thy Father's Face in Paradise, and Thy two
Sons, the Hasanayn! And the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings!"
We then broke away as we best could from the crowd of female "askers,"
who have established their Lares and Penates under the shadow of the
Lady's wing; and, advancing a few paces, we fronted to the North, and
recited a prayer in honour of Hamzah, and of the martyrs who lie buried
at the foot of Mount Ohod.[FN#60] We then turned to the right, and,
fronting the Easterly wall, prayed for the souls of the blessed whose
mortal spirits repose within Al-Bakia's hallowed circuit.[FN#61]
After this we returned to the Southern wall of the Mosque, and, facing
towards Meccah, we recited the following supplication:-"O Allah! (three
times repeated) O Compassionate! O Beneficent! O Requiter (of good and
[p.329] evil)! O Prince! O Ruler! O ancient of Benefits! O Omniscient!
O Thou who givest when asked, and who aidest when Aid is required,
accept this our Visitation, and preserve us from Dangers, and make easy
our Affairs, and broaden our Breasts, (gladden our hearts), and receive
our Prostration, and requite us according to our good Deeds, and turn
not against us our evil Deeds, and place not over us one who feareth
not Thee, and one who pitieth not us, and write Safety and Health upon
us and upon Thy Slaves, the Hujjaj (pilgrims), and the Ghuzzat
(fighters for the faith), and the Zawwar[FN#62] (visitors to the tomb),
and the Home-dwellers and the Wayfarers of the Moslems, by Land and by
Sea, and pardon those of the Faith of our Lord Mohammed One and All!"
>From the Southern wall we returned to the "Apostle's Window," where we
recited the following tetrastich and prayer:-
"O Mustafa! verily, I stand at Thy door,
A man, weak and fearful, by reason of my sins:
If Thou aid me not, O Apostle of Allah!
I die-for, in the world there is none generous as Thou art!"
"Of a Truth, Allah and His Angels bless the Apostle! O Ye who believe,
bless Him and salute Him with salutation![FN#63] O Allah! verily I
implore Thy Pardon and supplicate Thine Aid in this World as in the
next! O Allah! O Allah! abandon us not in this Holy Place to the
consequences of our Sins without pardoning them, or to our Griefs
without consoling them, or to our Fears, O Allah! without removing
them. And Blessings and Salutation to Thee, O Prince of Apostles,
Commissioned (to preach the word), and laud be to Allah, the Lord of
the (three) Worlds!"
We turned away from the Hujrah, and after gratifying
[p.330] a meek-looking but exceedingly importunate Hindi beggar, who
insisted on stunning me with the Chapter Y, S.,[FN#64] we fronted
Southwards, and taking care that our backs should not be in a line with
the Apostle's face, stood opposite the niche called Mihrab Osman. There
Hamid proceeded with another supplication. "O Allah! (three times
repeated), O Safeguard of the Fearful, and Defender of those who trust
in Thee, and Pitier of the Weak, the Poor, and the Destitute! accept
us, O Beneficent! and pardon us, O Merciful! and receive our Penitence,
O Compassionate! and have Mercy upon us, O Forgiver!-for verily none
but Thou canst remit Sin! Of a Truth Thou alone knowest the hidden, and
veilest Man's Transgressions: veil, then, our Offences, and pardon our
Sins, and broaden our Breasts, and cause our last Words at the Supreme
Hour of Life to be the Words, ‘There is no god but Allah,[FN#65] and
our Lord Mohammed is the Apostle of Allah!' O Allah! cause us to live
according to this Saying, O thou Giver of life; and make us to die in
this Faith, O thou Ruler of Death! And the best of Blessings and the
completest of Salutations upon the sole Lord of Intercession, our Lord
Mohammed and His Family, and His Companions One and All!"
Lastly, we returned to the Garden,[FN#66] and prayed another two-bow
prayer, ending, as we began, with the worship of the Creator.
[p.331] Unfortunately for me, the boy Mohammed had donned that grand
embroidered coat. At the end of the ceremony the Aghas, or eunuchs of
the Mosque, a race of men considered respectable by their office, and
prone to make themselves respected by the freest administration of
club-law, assembled in Al-Rauzah to offer me the congratulation
Ziyaratak Mubarak-"Blessed be thy Visitation,"-and to demand fees. Then
came the Sakka, or water-carrier of the Mosque well, Zemzem,[FN#67]
offering a tinned saucer filled from the holy source. And lastly I was
beset by beggars.
Some were mild beggars and picturesque, who sat upon the ground
immersed in the contemplation of their napkins; others, angry beggars
who cursed if they were not gratified; and others noisy and petulant
beggars, especially the feminine party near the Lady's tomb, who
captured me by the skirt of my garment, compelling me to ransom myself.
There were, besides, pretty beggars, boys who held out the right hand
on the score of good looks; ugly beggars, emaciated rascals whose long
hair, dirt, and leanness entitled them to charity; and lastly, the
blind, the halt, and the diseased, who, as Sons of the Holy City,
demanded from the Faithful that support with which they could not
provide themselves. Having been compelled by my companions, highly
against my inclination, to become a man of rank, I was obliged to pay
in proportion, and my almoner in the handsome coat, as usual, took a
kind of pride in being profuse. This first visit cost me double what I
had intended-four dollars-nearly one pound sterling, and never
afterwards could I pay less than half that sum.[FN#68]
[p.332] Having now performed all the duties of a good Zair, I was
permitted by Shaykh Hamid to wander about and see the sights. We began
our circumambulation at the Bab al-Salam,[FN#69] the Gate of Salvation,
the South-Western entrance pierced in the long wall of the Mosque. It
is a fine archway handsomely encrusted with marble and glazed tiles;
the many gilt inscriptions on its sides give it, especially at
night-time, an appearance of considerable splendour. The
portcullis-like doors are of wood, strengthened with brass plates, and
nails of the same metal. Outside this gate is a little Sabil, or public
fountain, where those who will not pay for the water, kept ready in
large earthen jars by the "Sakka" of the Mosque, perform their
ablutions gratis. Here all the mendicants congregate in force, sitting
on the outer steps and at the entrance of the Mosque, up and through
which the visitors must pass.
About the centre of the Western wall is the Bab alRahmah, the Gate of
Pity, which admits the dead bodies of the Faithful when carried to be
prayed over in the Mosque. There is nothing remarkable in its
appearance; in common with the other gates it has huge folding doors,
iron-bound, an external flight of steps, and a few modern inscriptions.
The Bab Majidi, or Gate of the Sultan Abd al-Majid, stands in the
centre of the Northern wall; like its portico, it is unfinished, but
its present appearance promises that it will eclipse all except the Bab
The Bab al-Nisa, or Gate of Women, is in the Eastern wall opposite the
Bab al-Rahmah, with which it is connected by the "Farsh al-Hajar," a
broad band of stone, two or three steps below the level of the portico,
[p.333] and slightly raised above the Sahn or the hypaethral portion of
the Mosque. And lastly, in the Southern portion of the same Eastern
wall is the Bab Jibrail, the Gate of the Archangel Gabriel.[FN#70]
All these entrances are arrived at by short external flights of steps
leading from the streets, as the base of the temple, unlike that of
Meccah, is a little higher than the foundation of the buildings around
it. The doors are closed by the attendant eunuchs immediately after the
night prayers, except during the blessed month Al-Ramazan and in the
pilgrimage season, when pious visitors pay considerable fees there to
pass the night in meditation and prayer.
The minarets are five in number; but one, the Shikayliyah, at the
North-West angle of the building, has been levelled, and is still in
process of being rebuilt. The Munar Bab al-Salam stands by the gate of
that name: it is a tall, handsome tower, surmounted by a large ball or
cone[FN#71] of brass gilt or burnished. The Munar Bab al-Rahmah, about
the centre of the Western wall, is of more simple form than the others:
it has two galleries, with the superior portion circular, and
surmounted by the conical "extinguisher"-roof so common in Turkey and
Egypt. On the North-East angle of the Mosque stands the Sulaymaniyah
Munar, so named after its founder, Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent. It
is a well-built and substantial stone-tower divided into three stages;
[p.334] lower portions are polygonal, the upper cylindrical, and each
terminates in a platform with a railed gallery carried all round for
the protection of those who ascend.
And lastly, from the South-East angle of the Mosque, supposed to be
upon the spot where Belal, the Apostle's loud-lunged crier, called the
first Moslems to prayer,
[FN#72] springs the Munar Raisiyah, so called because it is
appropriated to the Ruasa or chiefs of the Mu'ezzins. Like the
Sulaymaniyah, it consists of three parts: the first and second stages
are polygonal; and the third, a cylinder, is furnished like the lower
two with a railed gallery. Both the latter minarets end in solid ovals
of masonry, from which project a number of wooden triangles. To these
and to the galleries on all festive occasions, such as the arrival of
the Damascus caravan, are hung oil-lamps-a poor attempt at
illumination, which may rationally explain the origin of the Madinite
superstition concerning the column of light which crowns the Prophet's
tomb. There is no uniformity in the shape or the size of these four
minarets, and at first sight, despite their beauty and grandeur, they
appear somewhat bizarre and misplaced. But after a few days I found
that my eye grew accustomed to them, and I had no difficulty in
appreciating their massive proportions and lofty forms.
Equally irregular are the Riwaks, or porches, surrounding the
hypaethral court. Along the Northern wall there will be, when finished,
a fine colonnade of granite, paved with marble. The Eastern Riwak has
three rows of pillars, the Western four, and the Southern, under which
stands the tomb, of course has its columns ranged deeper than all the
others. These supports of the building are of different material; some
of fine marble, others of
[p.335] rough stone, plastered over and painted with the most vulgar of
arabesques,-vermilion and black in irregular patches and broad streaks,
like the stage-face of a London clown.[FN#73] Their size, moreover, is
different, the Southern colonnade being composed of pillars palpably
larger than those in the other parts of the Mosque. Scarcely any two
shafts own similar capitals; many have no pedestal, and some of them
are cut with a painful ignorance of art. I cannot extend my admiration
of the minarets to the columns-in their "architectural lawlessness"
there is not a redeeming point.
Of these unpraisable pillars three are celebrated in the annals of
Al-Islam, for which reason their names are painted upon them, and five
others enjoy the honour of distinctive appellations. The first is
called Al-Mukhallak, because, on some occasion of impurity, it was
anointed with a perfume called Khaluk. It is near the Mihrab al-Nabawi,
on the right of the place where the Imam prays; and it notes the spot
where, before the invention of the Pulpit, the Apostle, leaning upon
the Ustuwanat al-Hannanah-the Weeping Pillar[FN#74]-used to recite the
Khutbah or Friday sermon.
The second stands third from the Pulpit, and third from the Hujrah. It
is called the Pillar of Ayishah, also the Ustuwanat al-Kurah, or the
Column of Lots, because the Apostle, according to the testimony of his
favourite wife, declared that if men knew the value of the place, they
would cast lots to pray there: in some books it is known as the Pillar
of the Muhajirin or Fugitives, and others mention it as
Twenty cubits distant from Ayishah's Pillar, and the
[p.336] second from the Hujrah, and the fourth from the Pulpit, is the
Pillar of Repentance, or of Abu Lubabah. It derives its name from the
following circumstance. Abu Lubabah was a native of Al-Madinah, one of
the Auxiliaries and a companion of Mohammed, originally it is said a
Jew, according to others of the Beni Amr bin Auf of the Aus tribe.
Being sent for by his kinsmen or his allies, the Benu Kurayzah, at that
time capitulating to Mohammed, he was consulted by the distracted men,
women, and children, who threw themselves at his feet, and begged of
him to intercede for them with the offended Apostle. Abu Lubabah swore
he would do so: at the same time, he drew his hand across his throat,
as much as to say, "Defend yourselves to the last, for if you yield,
such is your doom." Afterwards repenting, he bound himself with a huge
chain to the date-tree in whose place the column now stands, vowing to
continue there until Allah and the Apostle accepted his penitence-a
circumstance which did not take place till the tenth day, when his
hearing was gone and he had almost lost his sight.
The less celebrated pillars are the Ustuwanat al-Sarir, or Column of
the Cot, where the Apostle was wont to sit meditating on his humble
couch-frame of date-sticks. The Ustuwanat Ali notes the spot where the
fourth Caliph used to pray and watch near his father-in-law at night.
At the Ustuwanat al-Wufud, as its name denotes, the Apostle received
envoys, couriers, and emissaries from foreign places. The Ustuwanat
al-Tahajjud now stands where Mohammed, sitting upon his mat, passed the
night in prayer. And lastly is the Makam Jibrail (Gabriel's place), for
whose other name, Mirbaat al-Bair, "the Pole of the Beast of Burden," I
have been unable to find an explanation.
The four Riwaks, or porches, of the Madinah Mosque open upon a
hypaethral court of parallelogramic shape.
[p.337] The only remarkable object in it[FN#75] is a square of wooden
railing enclosing a place full of well-watered earth, called the Garden
of our Lady Fatimah.[FN#76] It now contains a dozen date-trees-in Ibn
Jubayr's time there were fifteen. Their fruit is sent by the eunuchs as
presents to the Sultan and the great men of Al-Islam; it is highly
valued by the vulgar, but the Olema do not think much of its claims to
importance. Among the palms are the venerable remains of a Sidr, or
Lote tree,[FN#77] whose produce is sold for inordinate sums. The
enclosure is entered by a dwarf gate in the South-Eastern portion of
the railing, near the well, and one of the eunuchs is generally to be
seen in it: it is under the charge of the Mudir, or chief treasurer.
These gardens are not uncommon in Mosques, as the traveller who passes
through Cairo can convince himself. They form a pretty and an
appropriate feature in a building erected for the worship of Him "Who
spread the Earth with Carpets of Flowers and drew shady Trees from the
dead Ground." A tradition of the Apostle also declares that "Acceptable
is Devotion in the Garden and in the Orchard."
[p.338] At the South-East angle of this enclosure, under a wooden roof
supported by pillars of the same material, stands the Zemzem, generally
called the Bir al-Nabi, or "the Apostle's well." My predecessor
declares that the brackishness of its produce has stood in the way of
its reputation for holiness. Yet a well-educated man told me that it
was as "light" (wholesome) water[FN#78] as any in Al-Madinah,-a fact
which he accounted for by supposing a subterraneous passage[FN#79]
which connects it with the great Zemzem at Meccah. Others, again,
believe that it is filled by a vein of water springing directly under
the Apostle's grave: generally, however, among the learned it is not
more revered than our Lady's Garden, nor is it ranked in books among
the holy wells of Al-Madinah.
Between this Zemzem well and the Eastern Riwak is the Stoa, or
Academia, of the Prophet's city. In the cool mornings and evenings the
ground is strewed with professors, who teach the young idea, as an
eminent orientalist hath it, to shout rather than to shoot.[FN#80] A
few feet to the South of the palm garden is a moveable wooden planking
painted green, and about three feet high; it serves to separate the
congregation from the Imam when he prays here; and at the North-Eastern
angle of the enclosure is a
[p.339] Shajar Kanadil, a large brass chandelier, which completes the
furniture of the court.
After this inspection, the shadows of evening began to gather round us.
We left the Mosque, reverently taking care to issue forth with the left
foot, and not to back out of it as is the Sunnat or practice derived
from the Apostle, when taking leave of the Meccan Temple.
To conclude this long chapter. Although every Moslem, learned and
simple, firmly believes that Mohammed's remains are interred in the
Hujrah at Al-Madinah, I cannot help suspecting that the place is
doubtful as that of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. It must be
remembered that a tumult followed the announcement of the Apostle's
death, when the people, as often happens, believing him to be
immortal,[FN#81] refused to credit the report, and even Omar threatened
destruction to any one that asserted it.
Moreover the body was scarcely cold when the contest about the
succession arose between the fugitives of Meccah and the auxiliaries of
Al-Madinah: in the ardour of which, according to the Shi'ahs, the house
of Ali and Fatimah-within a few feet of the spot where the tomb of the
Apostle is now placed-was threatened with fire, and Abu Bakr was
elected Caliph that same evening. If anyone find cause to wonder that
the last resting-place of a personage so important was not fixed for
ever, he may find many a parallel case in Al-Madinah. To quote no
other, three several localities claim the honour of containing the Lady
Fatimah's mortal spoils, although one might suppose that the daughter
of the Apostle and the mother of the Imams would not be laid in an
unknown grave. My reasons for incredulity are the following:
[p.340] From the earliest days the shape of the Apostle's tomb has
never been generally known in Al-Islam. For this reason it is that
graves are made convex in some countries, and flat in others. Had there
been a Sunnat,[FN#82] such would not have been the case.
The accounts of the learned are discrepant. Al-Samanhudi, perhaps the
highest authority, contradicts himself. In one place he describes the
coffin; in another he expressly declares that he entered the Hujrah
when it was being repaired by Kaid-Bey, and saw in the inside three
deep graves, but no traces of tombs.[FN#83] Either, then, the mortal
remains of the Apostle had, despite Moslem superstition,[FN#84] mingled
with the dust, (a probable circumstance
[p.341] after nearly nine hundred years' interment), or, what is more
likely, they had been removed by the Shi'ah schismatics who for
centuries had charge of the sepulchre.[FN#85]
And lastly, I cannot but look upon the tale of the blinding light which
surrounds the Apostle's tomb, current for ages past and still
universally believed upon the authority of the attendant eunuchs, who
must know its falsehood, as a priestly gloss intended to conceal a
I here conclude the subject, committing it to some future and more
favoured investigator. In offering the above remarks, I am far from
wishing to throw a doubt upon an established point of history. But
where a suspicion of fable arises from popular "facts," a knowledge of
man and of his manners teaches us to regard it with favouring
[FN#1] Others add a fourth, namely, the Masjid al-Takwa, at Kuba.
[FN#2] The Moslem divines, however, naïvely remind their readers, that
they are not to pray once in the Al-Madinah Mosque, and neglect the
other 999, as if absolved from the necessity of them. The passage in
the text merely promises 1000 blessings upon that man's devotion who
prays at the Prophet's Mosque.
[FN#3] The visitor, who approaches the Sepulchre as a matter of
religious ceremony, is called "Zair," his conductor "Muzawwir," whereas
the pilgrim at Meccah becomes a "Haji." The Imam Malik disapproved of a
Moslem's saying, "I have visited the Prophet's tomb," preferring him to
express himself thus-"I have visited the Prophet." Others again dislike
the latter formula, declaring the Prophet too venerable to be so
visited by Amr and Zayd.
[FN#4] In A.D. 1807, they prevented Ali Bey (the Spaniard Badia) from
entering Al-Madinah, and it appears that he had reason to congratulate
himself upon escaping without severe punishment.
[FN#5] Nothing in the Spanish cathedrals suggests their oriental origin
and the taste of the people, more than the way in which they are hedged
in by secular buildings.
[FN#6] The ceremony of Ziyarat, however, begins at the Bab al-Salam. We
rode up to this gate only in order to avoid the sun.
[FN#7] Haswah is a place covered with gravel: Ramlah, one which is
sanded over. Both are equally applicable, and applied to the areas of
Mosques. Al-Sahn is the general word; Al-Hosh is occasionally used, but
is more properly applied to the court-yard of a dwelling-house.
[FN#8] This Riwak was begun about five or six years ago by Abd
al-Majid. To judge from the size of the columns, and the other
preparations which encumber the ground, this part of the building will
surpass all the rest. But the people of Al-Madinah assured me that it
will not be finished for some time,-a prophecy likely to be fulfilled
by the present state of Turkish finance.
[FN#9] This gate derives its peculiar name from its vicinity to the
Lady Fatimah's tomb; women, when they do visit the Mosque, enter it
through all the doors indifferently.
[FN#10] It is so called by the figure synecdoche: it contains the
Rauzah or the Prophet's Garden, and therefore the whole portico enjoys
that honoured name.
[FN#11] These carpets are swept by the eunuchs, who let out the office
for a certain fee to pilgrims, every morning, immediately after
sunrise. Their diligence, however, does by no means prevent the
presence of certain little parasites, concerning which politeness is
[FN#12] Because if not pure, ablution is performed at the well in the
centre of the hypaethra. Zairs are ordered to visit the Mosque
perfumed, and in their best clothes, and the Hanafi school deems it
lawful on this occasion only to wear dresses of pure silk.
[FN#13] In this Mosque, as in all others, it is proper to enter with
the right foot, and to retire with the left.
[FN#14] I must warn the reader that almost every Muzawwir has his own
litany, which descends from father to son: moreover, all the books
differ at least as much as do the oral authorities.
[FN#15] That is to say, "over the world, the flesh, and the devil."
[FN#16] This by strangers is called the Masalla Shafe'i, or the Place
of Prayer of the Shafe'i school. It was sent from Constantinople about
100 years ago, by Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent. He built the
Sulaymaniyah minaret, and has immortalised his name at Al-Madinah, as
well as at Meccah, by the number of his donations to the shrine.
[FN#17] Here is supposed to have been one of the Prophet's favourite
stations of prayer. It is commonly called the Musalla Hanafi, because
now appropriated by that school.
[FN#18] This tradition, like most others referring to events posterior
to the Prophet's death, is differently given, and so important are the
variations, that I only admire how all Al-Islam does not follow Wahhabi
example, and summarily consign them to oblivion. Some read "Between my
dwelling-house (in the Mosque) and my place of Prayer (in the Barr
al-Manakhah) is a Garden of the Gardens of Paradise." Others again,
"Between my house and my pulpit is a Garden of the Gardens of
Paradise." A third tradition-"Between my tomb and my pulpit is a Garden
of the Gardens of Paradise, and verily my pulpit is in my Full
Cistern," or "upon a Full Cistern of the Cisterns of Paradise," has
given rise to a new superstition. "Tara," according to some
commentators, alludes especially to the cistern Al-Kausar; consequently
this Rauzah is, like the black stone at Meccah, bona fide, a bit of
Paradise, and on the day of resurrection, it shall return bodily to the
place whence it came. Be this as it may, all Moslems are warned that
the Rauzah is a most holy spot. None but the Prophet and his son-in-law
Ali ever entered it, when ceremonially impure, without being guilty of
deadly sin. The Mohammedan of the present day is especially informed
that on no account must he here tell lies, or even perjure himself.
Thus the Rauzah must be respected as much as the interior of the Bayt
Allah at Meccah.
[FN#19] This is a stone desk on four pillars, where the Muballighs (or
clerks) recite the Ikamah, the call to divine service. It was presented
to the Mosque by Kaid-Bey, the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt.
[FN#20] I shall have something to say about this pulpit when entering
into the history of the Harim.
[FN#21] The afternoon prayers being Farz, or obligatory, were recited,
because we feared that evening might come on before the ceremony of
Ziyarat (visitation) concluded, and thus the time for Al-Asr (afternoon
prayers) might pass away. The reader may think this rather a curious
forethought in a man who, like Hamid, never prayed except when he found
the case urgent. Such, however, is the strict order, and my Muzawwir
was right to see it executed.
[FN#22]. This two-bow prayer, which generally is recited in honour of
the Mosque, is here, say divines, addressed especially to the Deity by
the visitor who intends to beg the intercession of his Prophet. It is
only just to confess that the Moslems have done their best by all means
in human power, here as well as elsewhere, to inculcate the doctrine of
eternal distinction between the creature and the Creator. Many of the
Maliki school, however, make the ceremony of Ziyarat to precede the
prayer to the Deity.
[FN#23] The Sujdah is a single "prostration" with the forehead touching
the ground. It is performed from a sitting position, after the Dua or
supplication that concludes the two-bow prayer. Some of the Olema,
especially those of the Shafe'i school, permit this "Sujdah of thanks"
to be performed before the two-bow prayer if the visitor have any
notable reason to be grateful.
[FN#24] The candles are still sent from Cairo.
[FN#25] These windows are a present from Kaid-Bey, the Mamluk Sultan of
[FN#26] These oil lamps are a present from the Sultan.
[FN#27] The five daily liturgies are here recited by Imams, and every
one presses to the spot on account of its peculiar sanctity.
[FN#28] In Moslem theology "Salat" from Allah means mercy, from the
angels intercession for pardon, and from mankind blessing. The act of
blessing the Prophet is one of peculiar efficacy in a religious point
of view. Cases are quoted of sinners being actually snatched from hell
by a glorious figure, the personification of the blessings which had
been called down by them upon Mohammed's head. This most poetical idea
is borrowed, I believe, from the ancient Guebres, who fabled that a
man's good works assumed a beautiful female shape, which stood to meet
his soul when winding its way to judgment. Also when a Moslem blesses
Mohammed at Al-Madinah, his sins are not written down for three
days,-thus allowing ample margin for repentance,-by the recording
angel. Al-Malakayn (the two Angels), or Kiram al-Katibin (the Generous
Writers), are mere personifications of the good principle and the evil
principle of man's nature; they are fabled to occupy each a shoulder,
and to keep a list of words and deeds. This is certainly borrowed from
a more ancient faith. In Hermas II. (command. 6), we are told that
"every man has two angels, one of godliness, the other of iniquity,"
who endeavour to secure his allegiance,-a superstition seemingly
founded upon the dualism of the old Persians. Mediaeval Europe, which
borrowed so much from the East at the time of the Crusades, degraded
these angels into good and bad fairies for children's stories.
[FN#29] Burckhardt writes this word Hedjra (which means "flight"). Nor
is M. Caussin de Perceval's "El Hadjarat" less erroneous. At Madinah it
is invariably called Al-Hujrah-the chamber. The chief difficulty in
distinguishing the two words, meaning "chamber" and "flight," arises
from our only having one h to represent the hard and soft h of Arabic,
???? [Arabic text] and ???? [Arabic text]. In the case of common
saints, the screen or railing round the cenotaph is called a "Maksurah."
[FN#30] Yet Mohammed enjoined his followers to frequent graveyards.
"Visit graves; of a verity they shall make you think of futurity!" And
again, "Whoso visiteth his two parents' grave, or one of the two, every
Friday, he shall be written a pious child, even though he might have
been in the world, before that, a disobedient."
[FN#31] The truth is no one knows what is there. I have even heard a
learned Persian declare that there is no wall behind the curtain, which
hangs so loosely that, when the wind blows against it, it defines the
form of a block of marble, or a built-up tomb. I believe this to be
wholly apocryphal, for reasons which will presently be offered.
[FN#32] The peculiar place where the guardians of the tomb sit and
confabulate is the Dakkat al-Aghawat (eunuch's bench) or Al-Mayda-the
table-a raised bench of stone and wood, on the North side of the
Hujrah. The remaining part of this side is partitioned off from the
body of the Mosque by a dwarf wall, inclosing the "Khasafat al-Sultan,"
the place where Fakihs are perpetually engaged in Khitmahs, or perusals
of the Koran, on behalf of the reigning Sultan.
[FN#33] The ancient practice of Al-Islam during the recitation of the
following benedictions was to face Meccah, the back being turned
towards the tomb, and to form a mental image of the Prophet, supposing
him to be in front. Al-Kirmani and other doctors prefer this as the
more venerable custom, but in these days it is completely exploded, and
the purist would probably be soundly bastinadoed by the eunuchs for
[FN#34] This is the usual introduction to a quotation from the Koran.
[FN#35] It may easily be conceived how offensive this must be to the
Wahhabis, who consider it blasphemy to assert that a mere man can stand
between the Creator and the creature on the last day.
[FN#36] This is called the Testification. Like the Fatihah, it is
repeated at every holy place and tomb visited at Al-Madinah.
[FN#37] Burckhardt mentions that in his day, among other favours
supplicated in prayer to the Deity, the following request was
made,-"Destroy our enemies, and may the torments of hell-fire be their
lot!" I never heard it at the Prophet's tomb. As the above benediction
is rather a long one, the Zair is allowed to shorten it a discretion,
but on no account to say less than "Peace be upon Thee, O Apostle of
Allah"-this being the gist of the ceremony.
[FN#38] Though performing Ziyarat for myself, I had promised my old
Shaykh at Cairo to recite a Fatihah in his name at the Prophet's tomb;
so a double recitation fell to my lot. If acting Zair for another
person (a common custom, we read, even in the days of Al-Walid, the
Caliph of Damascus), you are bound to mention your principal's name at
the beginning of the benediction, thus: "Peace be upon Thee, O Apostle
of Allah from such an one, the son of such an one, who wants Thine
Intercession, and begs for Pardon and Mercy." Most Zairs recite
Fatihahs for all their friends and relations at the tomb.
[FN#39] I have endeavoured in this translation to imitate the imperfect
rhyme of the original Arabic. Such an attempt, however, is full of
difficulties: the Arabic is a language in which, like Italian, it is
almost impossible not to rhyme.
[FN#40] It will not be necessary to inform the reader more than once
that all these several divisions of prayer ended with the Testification
and the Fatihah.
[FN#41] Faruk,-the separator,-a title of Omar.
[FN#42] When the number of the Ashab or "Companions" was thirty-nine,
they were suddenly joined by Omar, who thus became the fortieth.
[FN#43] It is said that Mohammed prayed long for the conversion of Omar
to Al-Islam, knowing his sterling qualities, and the aid he would lend
to the establishment of the faith.
[FN#44] This foolish fanaticism has lost many an innocent life, for the
Arabs on these occasions seize their sabres, and cut down every Persian
they meet. Still, bigoted Shi'ahs persist in practising and applauding
it, and the man who can boast at Shiraz of having defiled Abu Bakr's,
Omar's, or Osman's tomb becomes at once a lion and a hero. I suspect
that on some occasions when the people of Al-Madinah are anxious for an
"avanie," they get up some charge of the kind against the Persians. So
the Meccans have sometimes found these people guilty of defiling the
house of Allah-at which Infidel act a Shi'ah would shudder as much as a
Sunni. This style of sacrilege is, we read, of ancient date in Arabia.
Nafil, the Hijazi, polluted the Kilis (Christian church) erected by
Abrahah of Sanaa to outshine the Ka'abah, and draw off worshippers from
Meccah. The outrage caused the celebrated "affair of the Elephant."
(See D'Herbelot, Bibl. Or., v. "Abrahah.")
[FN#45] Burckhardt, with his usual accuracy, asserts that a new curtain
is sent when the old one is decayed, or when a new Sultan ascends the
throne, and those authors err who, like Maundrell, declare the curtain
to be removed every year. The Damascus Caravan conveys, together with
its Mahmil or emblem of royalty, the new Kiswah (or "garment") when
required for the tomb. It is put on by the eunuchs, who enter the
baldaquin by its Northern gate at night time, and there is a
superstitious story amongst the people that they guard their eyes with
veils against the supernatural splendours which pour from the tomb. The
Kiswah is a black, purple, or green brocade, embroidered with white or
with silver letters. A piece in my possession, the gift of Omar
Effendi, is a handsome silk and cotton Damascus brocade, with white
letters worked in it-manifestly the produce of manual labour, not the
poor dull work of machinery. It contains the formula of the Moslem
faith in the cursive style of the Suls character, seventy-two varieties
of which are enumerated by calligraphists. Nothing can be more elegant
or appropriate than its appearance. The old curtain is usually
distributed amongst the officers of the Mosque, and sold in bits to
pilgrims; in some distant Moslem countries, the possessor of such a
relic would be considered a saint. When treating of the history of the
Mosque, some remarks will be offered about the origin of the curtain.
[FN#46] The place of the Prophet's head is, I was told, marked by a
fine Koran hung up to the curtain This volume is probably a successor
to the relic formerly kept there, the Cufic Koran belonging to Osman,
the fourth Caliph, which Burckhardt supposes to have perished in the
conflagration which destroyed the Mosque.
[FN#47] The eunuchs of the tomb have the privilege of admitting
strangers. In this passage are preserved the treasures of the place;
they are a "Bayt Mal al-Muslimin," or public treasury of the Moslems;
therefore to be employed by the Caliph (i.e. the reigning Sultan) for
the exigencies of the faith. The amount is said to be enormous, which I
[FN#48] And I might add, never having seen one who has seen it. Niebuhr
is utterly incorrect in his hearsay description of it. It is not
"enclosed within iron railings for fear lest the people might
surreptitiously offer worship to the ashes of the Prophet." The tomb is
not "of plain mason-work in the form of a chest," nor does any one
believe that it is "placed within or between two other tombs, in which
rest the ashes of the first two Caliphs." The traveller appears to have
lent a credulous ear to the eminent Arab merchant, who told him that a
guard was placed over the tomb to prevent the populace scraping dirt
from about it, and preserving it as a relic.
[FN#49] Burckhardt writes this author's name El Samhoudy, and in this
he is followed by all our popular book-makers. Moslems have three ways
of spelling it: 1. Al-Samhudi, 2. Al-Samahnudi, and 3. Al-Samanhudi. I
prefer the latter, believing that the learned Shaykh, Nur al-Din Ali
bin Abdullah al-Hasini (or Al-Husayni) was originally from Samanhud in
Egypt, the ancient Sebennitis. He died in A.H. 911, and was buried in
the Bakia cemetery.
[FN#50] Burckhardt, however, must be in error when he says "The tombs
are also covered with precious stuffs, and in the shape of catafalques,
like that of Ibrahim in the great Mosque of Meccah." The eunuchs
positively declare that no one ever approaches the tomb, and that he
who ventured to do so would at once be blinded by the supernatural
light. Moreover the historians of Al-Madinah all quote tales of certain
visions of the Apostle, directing his tomb to be cleared of dust that
had fallen upon it from above, in which case some man celebrated for
piety and purity was let through a hole in the roof, by cords, down to
the tomb, with directions to wipe it with his beard. This style of
ingress is explained by another assertion of Al-Samanhudi, quoted by
Burckhardt. "In A.H. 892, when Kaid-Bey rebuilt the Mosque, which had
been destroyed by lightning, three deep graves were found in the
inside, full of rubbish, but the author of this history, who himself
entered it, saw no traces of tombs. The original place of Mohammed's
tomb was ascertained with great difficulty; the walls of the Hujrah
were then rebuilt, and the iron railing placed round it, which is now
[FN#51] Upon this point authors greatly disagree. Ibn Jubayr, for
instance, says that Abu Bakr's head is opposite the Apostle's feet, and
that Omar's face is on a level with Abu Bakr's shoulder.
[FN#52] The vulgar story of the suspended coffin has been explained in
two ways. Niebuhr supposes it to have arisen from the rude drawings
sold to strangers. Mr. William Bankes (Giovanni Finati, vol. ii., p.
289) believes that the mass of rock popularly described as hanging
unsupported in the Mosque of Omar at Jerusalem was confounded by
Christians, who could not have seen either of these Moslem shrines,
with the Apostle's Tomb at Al-Madinah.
[FN#53] Some Moslems end their Ziyarat at the Apostle's Tomb; others,
instead of advancing, as I did, return to the Apostle's window, pray,
and beg pardon for their parents and themselves, and ask all they
desire, concluding with prayers to the Almighty. Thence they repair to
the Rauzah or Garden, and standing at the column called after Abu
Lubabah, pray a two-bow prayer there; concluding with the "Dua," or
benediction upon the Apostle, and there repeat these words: "O Allah,
Thou hast said, and Thy word is true, ‘Say, O Lord, pardon and show
Mercy; for Thou art the best of the Merciful,' (chap. 23). O God,
verily we have heard Thy Word, and we come for Intercession to Thy
Apostle from our own Sins, repenting our Errors, and confessing our
Shortcomings and Transgressions! O Allah, pity us, and by the Dignity
of Thy Apostle raise our Place, (in the Heavenly Kingdom)! O Allah,
pardon our Brothers who have preceded us in the Faith!" Then the Zair
prays for himself, and his parents, and for those he loves. He should
repeat, "Allah have mercy upon Thee, O Apostle of Allah!" seventy
times, when an angel will reply, "Allah bless thee, O thou blesser."
Then he should sit before the Pulpit, and mentally conceive in it the
Apostle surrounded by the Fugitives and the Auxiliaries. Some place the
right hand upon the pulpit, even as Mohammed used to do. The Zair then
returns to the column of Abu Lubabah, and repents his sins there.
Secondly, he stands in prayer at Ali's Pillar in front of the form.
And, lastly, he repairs to the Ustuwanat al-Ashab (the Companions'
Column) the fourth distant from the Pulpit on the right, and the third
from the Hujrah on the left; here he prays and meditates, and blesses
Allah and the Apostle. After which, he proceeds to visit the rest of
the holy places.
[FN#54] It is almost unnecessary to inform the reader that all Moslems
deny the personal suffering of Christ, cleaving to the heresy of the
Christian Docetes,-certain "beasts in the shape of men," as they are
called in the Epistles of Ignatius to the Smyrneans,-who believed that
a phantom was crucified in our Saviour's place. They also hold to the
second coming of the Lord in the flesh, as a forerunner to Mohammed,
who shall reappear shortly before the day of judgment. Bartema
(Appendix 2) relates a story concerning the Saviour's future tomb.
[FN#55] This epithet will be explained below. The reader must bear in
mind, that this part of the Harim was formerly the house of Ali and
Fatimah; it was separated from the Hujrah-the abode of Mohammed and
Ayishah-only by a narrow brick wall, with a window in it, which was
never shut. Omar Bin Abd al-Aziz enclosed it in the mosque, by order of
Al-Walid, A.H. 90.
[FN#56] Plural of Sharif, a descendant of Mohammed.
[FN#57] The "people of the garment," so called, because on one occasion
the Apostle wrapped his cloak around himself, his daughter, his
son-in-law, and his two grandsons, thereby separating them in dignity
from other Moslems.
[FN#58] Burckhardt translates "Zahra" "bright blooming Fatimah." This I
believe to be the literal meaning of the epithet. When thus applied,
however, it denotes "virginem [Greek text] nescientem," in which state
of purity the daughter of the Apostle is supposed to have lived. For
the same reason she is called Al-Batul, the Virgin,-a title given by
Eastern Christians to the Mother of our Lord. The perpetual virginity
of Fatimah, even after the motherhood, is a point of orthodoxy in
[FN#59] Meaning "joy and gladness in the sight of true believers."
[FN#60] The prayer is now omitted, in order to avoid the repetition of
it when describing a visit to Mount Ohod.
[FN#61] The prayers usually recited here are especially in honour of
Abbas, Hasan, (Ali, called) Zayn al-Abidin, Osman, the Lady Halimah,
the Martyrs, and the Mothers of the Moslems, (i.e. the Apostle's
wives), buried in the holy cemetery. When describing a visit to
Al-Bakia, they will be translated at full length.
[FN#62] Hujjaj is the plural of Hajj-pilgrims; Ghuzzat, of
Ghazi-crusaders; and Zawwar of Zair-visitors to Mohammed's tomb.
[FN#63] "Taslim" is "to say Salam" to a person.
[FN#64] The Ya Sin (Y, S), the 36th chapter of the Koran, frequently
recited by those whose profession it is to say such masses for the
benefit of living, as well as of dead, sinners. Most educated Moslems
commit it to memory.
[FN#65] Or more correctly, "There is no Ilah but Allah," that is,
"There is no god but the God."
[FN#66] Some Zairs, after praying at the Caliph Osman's niche, leave
the Mosque, especially when the "Jama'at," or public worship, is not
being performed in the Rauzah. Others, as we did, pray alone in the
Garden, and many authors prefer this conclusion to Visitation, for the
reason above given.
[FN#67] This has become a generic name for a Well situated within the
walls of a Mosque.
[FN#68] As might be expected, the more a man pays, the higher he
estimates his own dignity. Some Indians have spent as much as 500
dollars during a first visit. Others have "made Maulids," i.e., feasted
all the poor connected with the temple with rice, meat, &c., whilst
others brought rare and expensive presents for the officials. Such
generosity, however, is becoming rare in these unworthy days.
[FN#69] This gate was anciently called the Bab al-Atakah, "of
[FN#70] Most of these entrances have been named and renamed. The Bab
Jibrail, for instance, which derives its present appellation from the
general belief that the archangel once passed through it, is generally
called in books Bab al-Jabr, the Gate of Repairing (the broken fortunes
of a friend or follower). It must not be confounded with the Mahbat
Jibrail, or the window near it in the Eastern wall, where the archangel
usually descended from heaven with the Wahy or Inspiration.
[FN#71] By some wonderful process the "Printer's Devil" converted, in
the first edition, this "ball or cone" into "bull or cow."
[FN#72] Belal, the loud-lunged crier, stood, we are informed, by Moslem
historians, upon a part of the roof on one of the walls of the Mosque.
The minaret, as the next chapter will show, was the invention of a more
[FN#73] This abomination may be seen in Egypt on many of the
tombs,-those outside the Bal al-Nasr at Cairo, for instance.
[FN#74] The tale of this Weeping Pillar is well known. Some suppose it
to have been buried beneath the pulpit: others-they are few in
number-declare that it was inserted in the body of the pulpit.
[FN#75] The little domed building which figures in the native sketches,
and in all our prints of the Al-Madinah Mosque, was taken down three or
four years ago. It occupied part of the centre of the square, and was
called Kubbat al-Zayt-Dome of Oil; or Kubbat al-Shama-Dome of
Candles,-from its use as a store-room for lamps and wax candles.
[FN#76] This is its name among the illiterate, who firmly believe the
palms to be descendants of trees planted there by the hands of the
Prophet's daughter. As far as I could discover, the tradition has no
foundation, and in old times there was no garden in the hypaethral
court. The vulgar are in the habit of eating a certain kind of date,
"Al-Sayhani," in the Mosque, and of throwing the stones about; this
practice is violently denounced by the Olema.
[FN#77] Rhamnus Nabeca, Forsk. The fruit, called Nabak, is eaten, and
the leaves are used for the purpose of washing dead bodies. The visitor
is not forbidden to take fruit or water as presents from Al-Madinah,
but it is unlawful for him to carry away earth, or stones, or cakes of
dust, made for sale to the ignorant.
[FN#78] The Arabs, who, like all Orientals, are exceedingly curious
about water, take the trouble to weigh the produce of their wells; the
lighter the water, the more digestible and wholesome it is considered.
[FN#79] The common phenomenon of rivers flowing underground in Arabia
has, doubtless, suggested to the people these subterraneous passages,
with which they connect the most distant places. At Al-Madinah, amongst
other tales of short cuts known only to certain Badawi families, a man
told me of a shaft leading from his native city to Hazramaut: according
to him, it existed in the times of the Prophet, and was a journey of
only three days!
[FN#80] The Mosque Library is kept in large chests near the Bab
al-Salam; the only MS. of any value here is a Koran written in the
Sulsi hand. It is nearly four feet long, bound in a wooden cover, and
padlocked, so as to require from the curious a "silver key."
[FN#81] So the peasants in Brittany believe that Napoleon the First is
not yet dead; the Prussians expect Frederick the Second; the Swiss,
William Tell; the older English, King Arthur; and certain modern
fanatics look forward to the re-appearance of Joanna Southcote. Why
multiply instances in so well known a branch of the history of popular
[FN#82] The Sunnat is the custom or practice of the Apostle, rigidly
conformed to by every good and orthodox Moslem.
[FN#83] The reader will bear in mind that I am quoting from Burckhardt.
When in Al-Hijaz and at Cairo, I vainly endeavoured to buy a copy of
Al-Samanhudi. One was shown to me at Al-Madinah; unhappily, it bore the
word Wakf (bequeathed), and belonged to the Mosque. I was scarcely
allowed time to read it. (See p. 102, ante.)
[FN#84] In Moslem law, prophets, martyrs, and saints, are not supposed
to be dead; their property, therefore, remains their own. The Olema
have confounded themselves in the consideration of the prophetic state
after death. Many declare that prophets live and pray for forty days in
the tomb; at the expiration of which time, they are taken to the
presence of their Maker, where they remain till the blast of Israfil's
trumpet. The common belief, however, leaves the bodies in the graves,
but no one would dare to assert that the holy ones are suffered to
undergo corruption. On the contrary, their faces are blooming, their
eyes bright, and blood would issue from their bodies if wounded.
Al-Islam, as will afterwards appear, abounds in traditions of the
ancient tombs of saints and martyrs, when accidentally opened, exposing
to view corpses apparently freshly buried. And it has come to pass that
this fact, the result of sanctity, has now become an unerring
indication of it. A remarkable case in point is that of the late Sharif
Ghalib, the father of the present Prince of Meccah. In his lifetime he
was reviled as a wicked tyrant. But some years after his death, his
body was found undecomposed; he then became a saint, and men now pray
at his tomb. Perhaps his tyranny was no drawback to his holy
reputation. La Brinvilliers was declared after execution, by her
confessor and the people generally, a saint;-simply, I presume, because
of the enormity of her crimes.
[FN#85] NOTE TO THIRD EDITION.-I have lately been assured by Mohammed
al-Halabi, Shaykh al-Olema of Damascus, that he was permitted by the
Aghawat to pass through the gold-plated door leading into the Hujrah,
and that he saw no trace of a sepulchre.
[FN#86] I was careful to make a ground-plan of the Prophet's Mosque, as
Burckhardt was prevented by severe illness from so doing. It will give
the reader a fair idea of the main point, though, in certain minor
details, it is not to be trusted. Some of my papers and sketches, which
by precaution I had placed among my medicines, after cutting them into
squares, numbering them, and rolling them carefully up, were damaged by
the breaking of a bottle. The plan of Al-Madinah is slightly altered
from Burckhardt's. Nothing can be more ludicrous than the views of the
Holy City, as printed in our popular works. They are of the style
"bird's-eye," and present a curious perspective. They despise distance
like the Chinese,-pictorially audacious; the Harrah, or ridge in the
foreground appears to be 200 yards, instead of three or four miles,
distant from the town. They strip the place of its suburb Al-Manakhah,
in order to show the enceinte, omit the fort, and the gardens north and
south of the city, enlarge the Mosque twenty-fold for dignity, and make
it occupy the whole centre of the city, instead of a small corner in
the south-east quarter. They place, for symmetry, towers only at the
angles of the walls, instead of all along the curtain, and gather up
and press into the same field all the venerable and interesting
features of the country, those behind the artist's back, and at his
sides, as well as what appears in front. Such are the Turkish
lithographs. At Meccah, some Indians support themselves by depicting
the holy shrines; their works are a truly Oriental mixture of ground
plan and elevation, drawn with pen and ink, and brightened with the
most vivid colours-grotesque enough, but less unintelligible than the
more ambitious imitations of European art.
AN ESSAY TOWARDS THE HISTORY OF THE PROPHET'S
IBN ABBAS has informed the world that when the eighty individuals
composing Noah's family issued from the ark, they settled at a place
distant ten marches and twelve parasangs[FN#1] (thirty-six to
forty-eight miles) from Babel or Babylon. There they increased and
multiplied, and spread into a mighty empire. At length under the rule
of Namrud (Nimrod), son of Kanaan (Canaan), son of Ham, they lapsed
from the worship of the true God: a miracle dispersed them into distant
parts of the earth, and they were further broken up by the one
primaeval language being divided into seventy-two dialects.
A tribe called Aulad Sam bin Nuh (the children of Shem), or Amalikah
and Amalik,[FN#2] from their ancestor Amlak bin Arfakhshad bin Sam bin
Nuh, was inspired
[p.344]with a knowledge of the Arabic tongue[FN#3]: it settled at
Al-Madinah, and was the first to cultivate the ground and to plant
palm-trees. In course of time these people extended over the whole
tract between the seas of Al-Hijaz (the Red Sea) and Al-Oman,
(north-western part of the Indian Ocean), and they became the
progenitors of the Jababirah[FN#4] (tyrants or "giants") of Syria, as
well as the Farainah (Pharaohs) of Egypt.[FN#5] Under these Amalik such
[p.345]was the age of man that during the space of four hundred years a
bier would not be seen, nor "keening" be heard, in their cities.
The last king of the Amalik, "Arkam bin al-Arkam,[FN#6]" was, according
to most authors, slain by an army of the children of Israel sent by
Moses after the Exodus,[FN#7] with orders thoroughly to purge Meccah
and Al-Madinah of their Infidel inhabitants. All the tribe was
destroyed, with the exception of the women, the children, and a youth
of the royal family, whose extraordinary beauty persuaded the invaders
to spare him pending a reference to the Prophet. When the army
returned, they found that Moses had died during the expedition, and
they were received with reproaches by the people for having violated
his express command. The soldiers, unwilling to live with their own
nation under this reproach, returned to Al-Hijaz, and settled there.
Moslem authors are agreed that after the Amalik the Benu Israel ruled
in the Holy Land of Arabia, but the learned in history are not agreed
upon the cause of their emigration. According to some, when Moses was
returning from a pilgrimage to Meccah, a multitude of his followers,
seeing in Al-Madinah the signs of the city which, according to the
Taurat, or Pentateuch, should hear the preaching of the last Prophet,
settled there, and were joined by many Badawin of the neighbourhood who
[p.346]conformed to the law of Moses. Ibn Shaybah also informs us that
when Moses and Aaron were wending northwards from Meccah, they, being
in fear of certain Jews settled at Al-Madinah, did not enter the
city,[FN#8] but pitched their tents on Mount Ohod. Aaron being about to
die, Moses dug his tomb, and said, "Brother, thine hour is come! turn
thy face to the next world!" Aaron entered the grave, lay at full
length, and immediately expired; upon which the Jewish lawgiver covered
him with earth, and went his way towards the Promised Land.[FN#9]
Abu Hurayrah asserted that the Benu Israel, after long searching,
settled in Al-Madinah, because, when driven from Palestine by the
invasion of Bukht al-Nasr (Nebuchadnezzar), they found in their books
that the last Prophet would manifest himself in a town of the towns of
Arabiyah,[FN#10] called Zat Nakhl, or the "Place of Palm trees." Some
of the sons of Aaron occupied the city; other tribes settled at
Khaybar,[FN#11] and in the neighbourhood,
[p.347]building "Utum," or square, flat-roofed, stone castles for
habitation and defence. They left an order to their descendants that
Mohammed should be favourably received, but Allah hardened their hearts
unto their own destruction. Like asses they turned their backs upon
Allah's mercy,[FN#12] and the consequence is, that they have been
rooted out of the land.
The Tarikh Tabari declares that when Bukht al-Nasr,[FN#13] after
destroying Jerusalem, attacked and slew the king of Egypt, who had
given an asylum to a remnant of the house of Israel, the persecuted
fugitives made their way into Al-Hijaz, settled near Yasrib
(Al-Madinah), where they founded several towns, Khaybar, Fadak, Wady
al-Subu, Wady al-Kura, Kurayzah, and many others. It appears, then, by
the concurrence of historians, that the Jews at an early time either
colonised, or supplanted the Amalik at, Al-Madinah.
At length the Israelites fell away from the worship of the one God, who
raised up against them the Arab tribes of Aus and Khazraj, the
progenitors of modern Ansar. Both these tribes claimed a kindred
[p.348]Al-Yaman as the land of their nativity. The circumstances of
their emigration are thus described. The descendants of Yarab bin
Kahtan bin Shalik bin Arkfakhshad bin Sam bin Nuh, kinsmen to the
Amalik, inhabited in prosperity the land of Saba.[FN#14] Their sway
extended two months' journey from the dyke of Mareb,[FN#15] near the
modern capital of Al-Yaman, as far as Syria, and incredible tales are
told of their hospitality and of the fertility of their land. As usual,
their hearts were perverted by prosperity. They begged Allah to relieve
them from the troubles of extended empire and the duties of hospitality
by diminishing their possessions. The consequence of their impious
supplications was the well-known Flood of Iram.
The chief of the descendants of Kahtan bin Saba, one of the ruling
families in Al-Yaman, was one Amru bin Amin Ma al-Sama,[FN#16] called
"Al-Muzaykayh" from his rending in pieces every garment once worn. His
wife Tarikah Himyariah, being skilled in divination, foresaw the fatal
event, and warned her husband, who, unwilling to break from his tribe
without an excuse, contrived the following stratagem. He privily
ordered his adopted son, an orphan
[p.349]to dispute with him, and to strike him in the face at a feast
composed of the principal persons in the kingdom. The disgrace of such
a scene afforded him a pretext for selling off his property, and,
followed by his thirteen sons,-all borne to him by his wife
Tarikah,-and others of the tribe, Amru emigrated Northwards. The little
party, thus preserved from the Yamanian Deluge, was destined by Allah
to become the forefathers of the Auxiliaries of his chosen Apostle.
All the children of Amru thus dispersed into different parts of Arabia.
His eldest son, Salabah bin Amru, chose Al-Hijaz, settled at
Al-Madinah, then in the hands of the impious Benu Israel, and became
the father of the Aus and Khazraj. In course of time, the new comers
were made by Allah an instrument of vengeance against the disobedient
Jews. Of the latter people, the two tribes Kurayzah and Nazir claimed
certain feudal rights (well known to Europe) upon all occasions of Arab
marriages. The Aus and the Khazraj, after enduring this indignity for a
time, at length had recourse to one of their kinsmen who, when the
family dispersed, had settled in Syria. Abu Jubaylah, thus summoned,
marched an army to Al-Madinah, avenged the honour of his blood, and
destroyed the power of the Jews, who from that moment became Mawali, or
clients to the Arabs.
For a time the tribes of Aus and Khazraj, freed from the common enemy,
lived in peace and harmony. At last they fell into feuds and fought
with fratricidal strife, until the coming of the Prophet effected a
reconciliation between them. This did not take place, however, before
the Khazraj received, at the battle of Buas (about A.D. 615), a decided
defeat from the Aus.
It is also related, to prove how Al-Madinah was predestined to a high
fate, that nearly three centuries before the siege of the town by Abu
Jubaylah, the Tobba
[p.350]al-Asghar[FN#17] marched Northward, at the requisition of the
Aus and Khazraj tribes, in order to punish the Jews; or, according to
others, at the request of the Jews to revenge them upon the Aus and
Khazraj. After capturing the town, he left one of his sons to govern
it, and marched onwards to conquer Syria and Al-Irak.
Suddenly informed that the people of Al-Madinah had treacherously
murdered their new prince, the exasperated Tobba returned and attacked
the place; and, when his horse was killed under him, he swore that he
would never decamp before razing it to the ground. Whereupon two Jewish
priests, Ka'ab and Assayd, went over to him and informed him that it
was not in the power of man to destroy the town, it being preserved by
Allah, as their books proved, for the refuge of His Prophet, the
descendant of Ishmael.[FN#18]
The Tobba Judaized. Taking four hundred of the priests with him, he
departed from Al-Madinah, performed pilgrimage to the Ka'abah of
Meccah, which he invested with a splendid covering[FN#19]; and, after
erecting a house
[p.351]for the expected Prophet, he returned to his capital in
Al-Yaman, where he abolished idolatry by the ordeal of fire. He treated
his priestly guests with particular attention, and on his death-bed he
wrote the following tetrastich:-
"I testify of Ahmad that he of a truth
"Is a prophet from Allah, the Maker of souls.
Be my age extended into his age,
I would be to him a Wazir and a cousin."
Then sealing the paper he committed it to the charge of the High
Priest, with a solemn injunction to deliver the letter, should an
opportunity offer, into the hands of the great Prophet; and that, if
the day be distant, the missive should be handed down from generation
to generation till it reached the person to whom it was addressed. The
house founded by him at Al-Madinah was committed to a priest of whose
descendants was Abu Ayyub the Ansari, the first person over whose
threshold the Apostle passed when he ended the Flight. Abu Ayyub had
also charge of the Tobba's letter, so that after three or four
centuries, it arrived at its destination.
Al-Madinah was ever well inclined to Mohammed. In[FN#20]