Charles Reed Peers.

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name of God, of his Son, and of the Holy Ghost; for this
act any sort of water that may be procured is acceptable ;
by this act the soul is purified from the contamination of
all sins ; this rite may be performed by the first padri who
may be present, and if none are at hand, by any individ-
ual among the Christians ; 2. Confirmation : that is, a fric-
tion with holy oil, given in the name of God; and the
giver, that is, a padri of known merit, bestows it on all
Christians of an adult age ; Sanct-Eucharisty : this, they say,
is the holiest of all the sacraments, as it presents the Lord
Jesus under the form of bread, that he may become the
power of the soul. Three conditions are required in this
act : the first is a true faith ; the second, abstinence from
sins; the third, to fast, and eat nothing until taking the
sacrament ; the time of taking it is Christmas ; 4. Penitence:
which consists of two conditions that the Lord Jesus has
imposed therein : the first is confession ; that is the avowal
made by the sinner of his sins, and the absolution of the
padri, as of one who is the substitute of Jesus, and whose
forgiveness is the absolution of Jesus. Then, it is neces-
sary that the sinner should give a detailed account of his


concealed and open crimes, and to this he must add two
things : the one is an aversion to, and a repentance of, every
action w^hich he may have done without the approbation of
God; the other is a sincere resolution of never undertaking
any blamable acts; to execute faithfully the penance im-
posed upon him by the padri, as Jesus ordered a return for
every crime. Further, whatever sins, venial or capital, may
have struck the ear of the padri, he ought never, even at
the peril of his head, to reveal or publish them ; 5. Sacra-
ment of extreme unction: this is a friction by which they
anoint a Christian with holy oil, and they bestow this sac-
rament with some words which the Lord Jesus has spoken.
The above five sacraments are obligatory to every adult
Christian ; 6, Ordination : this sacrament is taken by de-
voting oneself by free choice to the worship of God,
which vocation the Christians recommend ; 7. Matrim.ony :
this is an agreement which a man and a woman take to-
gether at the time of their binding themselves in wedlock,
that during the whole of their life they will keep faith to
each other. This is peculiar to the adults. This act is al-
lowable to women frequently at the age of twelve years ;
to men at that of fourteen. The man is not permitted to
take more than one wife, and the woman is bound to a
•single husband. The padri who gives this sacrament, after
having ascertained that there is no objection to the mar-
riage, and the compact being made before witnesses, unites
"both to each other in wedlock, according to the conditions
of matrimony.

The Christians say that faith is something by which we
know a religion to be certainly true, and that, whenever
God, the Almighty, has sent his message, however hard
and difficult, and out of the natural mode and rule it may
appear, we know that God cannot tell a lie. The truth is
found in the book of God, by means of the evidence given
by him who is the substitute of the Lord Jesus, and whom
they call Pope. It is certain that he throws nobody into
an error, because the Lord Jesus has in the Holy Gospel
made an arrangement with him to that effect. It should
be known that the life of man depends upon these lauda-
ble qualifications. To search and to acquire knowledge is


a laudable intention, in every business and profession ; on
that account it is by method and virtue that affairs find a
proper arrangement ; knowledge is the master of things ; it
is like salt in meat, it is the eye of the body ; and as the
sun in heaven, yusticc consists in using moderation in the
manifold transactions of men, and in keeping men in peace
and in mutual satisfaction : if therefore everybody were
contented with his share, and entertained no desire for
more, there would be no war and contention. Fortitude is
something by means of which one obtains superiority over
the difficulties which obstruct the life of men, and the
business of fortitude is to triumph over terror and fear,
which Iblis (Satan) throws into the heart, in order to re-
tain us from acts which are to be done. Continence is a
faculty which bestows measure and order in sensual pleas-
ures ; the business of continence is to prevent men from
being carried away by the delights of the world ; we ought
to tend in this life toward godliness; blessed are those who
feel hunger and thirst after God. It is required that, in
our devotion to God there enters no other desire but that
of the beatitude to see the Divine Being ; on that account
blessed are those whose hearts are pure, because the sight
of God shall be their reward in heaven, and even in
this world they shall in a certain way see God : because
those whose eyes are pure behold things of superlative
beauty ; it is required that we carry strife to a peaceful
end, and accomplish our virtuous endeavors. Those who
are in a state of opposition to this take with efforts and
struggles the road of misery. On that account blessed are
the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.
There are fourteen gifts of God, the all merciful ; seven
of them are bodily, and seven spiritual. The seven bodily
gifts are : i. to satiate the hungry; 2. to quench the thirst
of the thirsty; 3. to clothe the naked; 4. to harbor the
stranger; 5. to inquire after the sick, and to console the cap-
tive; 6. to procure liberty to prisoners; 7, to bury the dead.
The spiritual acts are as follows: i. to instruct the igno-
rant; 2. to advise the poor in spirit ; 3. to comfort the
heart of the mourners; 4. to admonish the sinners; 5- ^^
forgive injuries inflicted; 6. to show forbearance to the


deformities of nature; 7. to offer pious prayers for the living
and the dead. The Christians say that every necessitous
individual is worthy of charities, to whatever religion or
sect he may belong, but the person of the same faith, or a
relative, is more deserving of favor. It is a sin, when by
choice we perpetrate an action which is in opposition to
the pleasure of God, and when we abandon an act which
we are commanded to perform. A capital sin is it for a man
by his own choice to commit an abominable act and deed,
such as the unrighteous spilling of blood, and w^horedom.
Of venial sins seven are enumerated : such as stealing some
slight thing without a perfect concurrence of the will in
it. The summary of the capital sins is as follows: pride,
avarice, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth.


The following are the principal features of the long ac-
count of Muhammedism contained in the Dabist^n.

Immediately after the promulgation of the Koran, which
followed Muhammed's death, it became necessary to fix the
meaning and to determine the bearing of its text. There
was one theme in which all agreed: the grandeur, majesty,
and beneficence of one supreme Being, the Creator, ruler,
and preserver of the world, which is the eff"ulgence of his
pow^er. This is expressed in the Koran in such a strain
of sublimity as may unite men of all religions in one feel-
ing of admiration. This excellence is an inheritance of the
most ancient Asiatic religion. God can but be alw^ays the
object of boundless adoration, but never that of human
reasoning. Hence the Muhammedan sects disagreed about
the attributes of God.

The residence assigned, although inconsistently with pure
spiritualism, to the supreme Being was the ninth heaven ;
an eighth sphere formed the intermediate story between the
uppermost heaven and seven other spheres, distributed
among so many prophets, in the same manner as, in the
Desatir, the seven prophet kings of the Peshdadian dynasty
were joined to the seven planets which they, each one in
particular, venerated. Numberless angels, among whom
four principal chiefs, fill the universe, and serve, in a thou-
sand different ways, the supreme Lord of creation. We
recognize the notions of the ancient Persian religion in this,
and in the whole system of divine government.

Another subject of violent and interminable dispute was
God's action upon the nether world, principally upon man-
kind, or God's universal and eternal judgment, commonly
called predestination. This subject was greatly agitated by
the Matezalas^ Kadarians ^ jfabarians, and others.

Although this subject appears to be connected with the
Zoroastrian doctrine of the two principles, " good and bad,*



yet it has never been agitated with so much violence in so
many particular ways by any religionists as by the Muham-

According to tradition, the ancient Persian philosophy
was carried in the reign of Alexander to Greece, and
from thence, after having been recast in the mold of
Greek genius, returned in translations to its original coun-
try. We find it expressly stated in the Dabistan, that Plato
and Aristotle were acknowledged as the founders of two
principal schools of Muhammedan philosophers, to wit :
those of the Hukma ashrdkin, « Platonists," and the Huktna
mashdyin, "Aristotelian, or Peripatetics. » To these add
the Sfifi's matsherdin, "orthodox Sufis, » who took care not
to maintain anything contrary to revelation, and exerted all
their sagacity to reconcile passages of the Koran with sound
philosophy. This was the particular profession of the Mat-
kalmin, " scholastics. '> These cede to no other philosophers
the palm of mastering subtilties and acute distinctions.
They had originally no other object but that of defending
their creed against the heterodox philosophers. But they
went further, and attacked the Peripatetics themselves with
the intention to substitute another philosophy for theirs.
It may be here sufficient to call to mind the works of three
most celebrated men, Alfarabi, Ibn Sina (Avisenna), and
Ghazali, whose works are reckoned to be the best speci-
mens of Arabian and Muhammedan philosophy. They con-
tain three essential parts of orthodox dogmatism : i. on-
tology, physiology, and psychology; these together are called
"the science of possible things''; 2. theology, that is, the
discussion upon the existence, essence, and the attributes of
God ; as well as his relations with the world and man in
particular ; 3. the science of prophetism, or " revealed the-
ology. » All these subjects are touched upon in the Dabis-
tan, but in a very desultory manner. I shall add, that the
author puts in evidence a sect called Akhbdr\n, or " dog-
matic traditionists,*' who participate greatly in the doctrine
of the Matkalmin, and in his opinion are the most approv-
able of all religious philosophers.

The contest for the khalifat between the family of Ali,
Muhammed's son-in-law, and the three first khalifs, as well



as the families of Moaviah and Abbas, a contest which be-
gan in the seventh century, and appears not yet terminated
in our days — this contest, so much more violent as it was
at once religious and political, occasioned the rise of a
great number of sects. Much is found about AH in the
Dabistan, and even an article of the Koran, published no
where else relative to this great Muselman, which his ad-
versaries are said to have suppressed. The adherents of Ali
are called Shidhs.

The Persians, after being conquered by the Arabs, were
compelled to adopt the Muhammedan religion, but they
preserved a secret adherence to Magism, their ancient na-
tional creed; they were therefore easily disposed to join any
sect, which was more or less contrary to the standard creed
of their conquerors, and bore some slight conformity, or had
the least connection with, their former religion. They be-
came Shiahs.

Among these sectaries originated the particular office of
Imdm, whose power partook of something of a mysterious
nature : the visible presence of an Imam was not required ;
he could, although concealed, be acknowledged, direct and
command his believers; his name was Afahdi, **the director."
This opinion originated and was spread after the sudden
disappearance of the seventh Imam, called Ismdil. His fol-
fowers, the Ismiiilahs, maintained that he was not dead ;
that he lived concealed, and directed the faithful by mes-
sages, sent by him, and brought by his deputies; that he
would one day reappear, give the victory to his adherents
over all other sects, and unite the world in one religion.
More than one Mahdi was subsequently proclaimed in dif-
ferent parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe — always expected,
never appearing — so that it became a proverbial expres-
sion among the Arabs to denote tardiness : ^* as slow as a
Mahdi.'* We recognize in this an ancient idea of Zoroaster:
he, too, was to reappear in his sons at the end of 12,000
years; rather late, — but mankind never tire of hope and

A creed, like that of the Ismdilahs^ because founded up-
on something mysterious, vague, and spiritual, was likely
to branch out in most extraordinary conceptions and prac-


tices. The Dabistdfi abounds with curious details about
them. Their doctrine bore the character of duplicity : one
part was manifest, the other concealed. Their manner of
making proselytes was not open ; they acted in the dark.
They first induced the neophyte to doubt, then to despise
his own creed, and at last to exchange it for apparently
more sublime truths, until, after having sufficiently em-
boldened his reasoning faculty, they enabled him to throw
off every restraint of authority in religious matters. We
see in the Dabistdn the degrees through which an Isma-
ilah was to pass until he believed in no religion at all.

A most remarkable sect of the Ismriilahs was that of the
Ahmctiafis, so called from Alanmt, a hill-fort in the Per-
sian province of Ghilan. This fort was the seat of Hassan ^
a self-created Imam, and became the capital of an empire,
perhaps unique in the history of the world. An Imam,
called by Europeans ^' the old man of the mountain,^' with-
out armies, or treasures, commanded the country around,
and terrified a great part of Asia by a band of devoted ad-
herents, whom he sent about to propagate his religion, and
to execute his commands, which were frequently the mur-
der of his enemies. The executioners were unknown save
at the fatal moment of action ; mighty khalifs and sul-
tans met with their murderers among their most intimate
servants, or the guardians of their doors, in the midst of
crowded public places or in the solitude of their secret bed-
chambers. The Fedayis^ so were they called, devoted them-
selves not only to the sacred service of their Imam, but
hired their arm also for profane service to foreign chiefs,
such as the Christian crusaders. Among Europeans, these
Ismailahs, were known under the name of Assasshis^ which
well answered their infamous profession, but is better de-
rived from Hashishah, a sort of hemp, from which they
extracted an intoxicating beverage for their frequent use.
During one hundred and sixty years the Ismailahs were the
terror of the weak and the mighty, until they fell in one pro-
miscuous slaughter, with the khalif of Islamism, under the
swords of the ferocious invaders who, issuing from the vast
steppes of Tartary, fell upon the disordered empire of the


An Account of the Angels

The angels are neither females nor males, and are pure
of all depravity and sins. Some of the first rank among
them are entranced in the contemplation of the divine per-
fection which they witness, so that they are not aware of
God Almighty having created the world and mankind. The
second order of angels are the ministers of bodies and
gigantic forms; the revolution of the heavens is their office;
and with every drop of rain an angel comes down, and no
leaf appears without an angel fostering it. But among the
angels four are distinguished, namely : Jabril, IsrdfU,
Afdikdil, and Azrciil. The message of revelation is the
business of Jabril ; to sound the trumpet belongs to Israfil;
the surety of professions is Milikail's ; and Azrail seizes the
souls. Four angels are the appointed guardians of man-
kind, and write down the good and the bad ; two of them
are occupied with this business during the day, and two
during the night. The writers of the good keep the right
side, those of the bad the left. The angels can in some
form appear to men ;

If this supernatural event was associated with the claim
of prophecy, so was it a miracle, and if not, so was it di-
vine favor; in the existence of the Lord prophet (the bless-
ing and peace of God be with him) was a great number
of miracles attesting his mission to the nations, and such
ones as are not to be found with other prophets. There
are many books attributed to God Almighty, and in their
whole number one hundred and four are approved ; but they
are not confined to this number, and some of those which
are known are not praised.

The Muhammedan religion is among the most excellent
and most noble religions, and the father of this religion,
the prophet of Arabia, is the best and the most eminent
among the saints of the religions ; there is a number of
prophets, particularly the friends and the posterity of the
prophet, but none is higher than he, the prophet.

Online LibraryCharles Reed PeersUniversal classics library (Volume 6) → online text (page 29 of 37)