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pp. 279, 280 ; W. Irving, pp. 182, 183; Lamartine, " H. deT.,"
vol, i. p. 268.


Mahomet's teaching at Medina. — [a.d. 622-632.]

I HAVE still briefly to consider the general teach-
ing of the Medina Suras.^ Many of the chapters of
this period are spun out to great length, and con-
tain repetitions of former revelations which call for no
notice. They contain, however, some points which
deserve more particular comment. Sura II., the
longest in the Koran, contains reference to a great
variety of subjects, among which is the institution of
the Fast of Ramadhan (Ramazan). On this, the
ninth month of the Mahometan year, the Faithful
are to fast during the day, from dawn, when there is
light enough to distinguish between a white and black
thread, till sunset. Certain relaxations are allowed
for the sick, and those on a journey, &c. Within the
prescribed hours no food or water is to pass the lips ;
and as the month is fixed according to the retro-
gressive seasons of the lunar year,^ its occurrence
during the heats of summer cause it to press with

• These are as follow : — 113, 114, 2, 47, 57, S, 58, 65, 98, 62,
59, 24, 63, 48, 61, 4, 3, 5, 33, 60, 66, 49, 9. VideMuiv, vol. ii.

* Sura ix. 36, 37. Each month retrogrades eleven days, ac-
cording to the solar year.


double rigour in the parched regions of Africa,
Arabia, and India. Those who have dwelt among
the Mahometans will bear testimony to the exemplary
and patient manner in which the irksome duties of
the fast are fulfilled by those whose doings are open
to observation during the prescribed hours. Many,
indeed, make a point of keeping it who neglect the
appointed prayers. On the believer's proceedings
during the night there is no restriction, as regards
food, and social domestic intercourse ; ^ and con-
sequently it imposes no restraint on indulgence. The
reader will not fail to notice how the fasting enjoined
by Mahomet differs from the Christian ideal of ab-
stinence. The one involves a painful duty made
final and meritorious in itself, and the tendency of it
is to alternate with the grossest licentiousness ; the
other, being merely a means to an end, is wisely left
unfettered by such severe restrictions, and, shunning
the observation of man, is to be associated with that
godly sorrow for sin which worketh repentance.

The fast of the Ramadhan terminates with the
festival of the "Eed-al-Fitr,"^ or "breaking of the
fast," kept on the first three days of the tenth month
(Shawwal). It is celebrated as a season of general
rejoicing and feasting. Certain prescribed religious
observances are attended to, visits of congratulation
made, and alms given as offerings to the poor.

The " Eed-al-Zoha,"^ or " day of sacrifice," was
established by the prophet at Medina, and was

• Sura ii. 181-1S3.

^ Called by the Turks " Ramazam Beyram."

^ Called by the Turks "Koorban Beyram."


grounded on the ceremonies of the Greater Pilgrim-
age. It is celebrated on the tenth of the month
Dzul-Hijja, the last of their lunar year, and the day on
which the pilgrims return from Arafat to Mina.

In the first year of his residence at Medina,
Mahomet kept, with certain sacrifices, the great
" Day of Atonement," in conformity with Jewish
practice, but afterwards abandoned it, and substituted
a festival of a similar character connected with the
Meccan rites.^ It is called " The Greater Festival,"
and lasts three days. On the first day the faithful
should slay a victim if they can aftbrd to do so. The
wealthy slay several sheep, and distribute the flesh to
the poor. Visits of congratulation and presents are
made during its continuance.^ " This feast is the
great Muhammadan festival, and is observed wherever
Islamism exists; and thus Muhammad, though he
ignored entirely the doctrine of the Atonement, has
become unwillingly a witness to the grand Christian
doctrine, that ' without shedding of blood there is no
remission.' "^

The two festivals above mentioned were estab-
lished by the prophet himself; while that of the
" Moharram," — so called from its being kept on the
first ten days of the first month of the Moslem year —
is a Sunnat fast, but by some supposed to be alluded
to in the Koran,* while others apply the allusion there to
the " ten nights " differently. The days of this festival
are considered eminently blessed, alms are given, and

' Muir, vol. iii. pp. 51, 52. ^ Lane, i. 232; ii, 252.

^ " Notes on Muhammadanism," pp. no, iii.
* Sura Ixxxix. i.


it is kept as a season of rejoicing. The last day —
the " Ashura," is considered sacred for a variety of
reasons : because that on it Noah left the ark, &c., but
its greatest claim to sanctity is, that on it the martyr
Hosein, grandson of the prophet, was slain in battle
at the Kerbela (A.D. 680). The anniversary of this
event is kept, especially by the Shias, with expressions
of profound grief.^ In memory of his death, models
of his tomb, called " Tazias," are in India buried, and
his name invoked. At Cairo the great mosque in
which his head is supposed to rest is visited, prayers
offered, and his martyrdom commemorated.^

Directions are given regarding the pilgrimage
to the holy places, — to Mecca, " appointed a
place of resort for all mankind,"^ with the minute
ceremonies to be performed by the Faithful. It is
declared to be a positive "duty towards God, on
those who are able to go thither,"* but it does not
appear to be absolutely necessary to salvation, though
the Sunnah makes it so.^ The orthodox sects also
differ in their interpretation of the Koran on this
subject.^ Trading is permitted during the pilgrim-

' The Shias however keep all the days of the Moharram
as a season of lamentation, and commemorate on them the
deaths of Ali and Hasan, who, as well as Hosein, are esteemed

^ There are certain other festivals, of which we may mention,
I, Shub-Barat, the "night of record," on which God registers
the actions of the coming year, observed on the 15th of the
month Shaban. 2. Bara-Wafat, the anniversary of the death
of Mahomet, on the 12th of the month Rabi I.

' Sura ii. 1 19. * Sura iii. 91.

* Sale, Pre. Dis., p. 114. ^ Lane, " Mod. Egyp.,"i. 131.


age — an astute provision which, with pious guile,
combines in one solemn act the usually antagonistic
pursuits of piety and profit ^

There can be little doubt that Mahomet
associated the pilgrimage to Mecca with some un-
defined, though real spiritual advantage. It was hal-
lowed in his own earliest associations, venerable as
the traditional place of prayer of Abraham ; and
having, as he imagined, been purged from all trace
of idolatry, he considered that from it, "the first
house assigned unto men to worship," ^ the prayers of
the pilgrim would ascend with especial acceptance to
Heaven. With such views of the inherent sanctity of
the spot, we need not be surprised that he included,
in the ceremonial observances of his religion, the
ancient rites of the pilgrimage, which were associated
with the names of their ancestors, Abraham and
Ishmael, and from which the grosser forms of
idolatry had been swept away.

By the earnest Mahometan of the present day,
the distant journey to Mecca is undertaken as a
matter of obedience to the direction of his prophet,
and from his belief that such visit is in itself fraught
with rich blessing, apart from its effect on his will and
character.^ That such is practically believed may be
gathered from the fact, that according to the Hanifees,
the pilgrimage may be done by deputy, and, according
to custom in Morocco even after a person's death.

' Sura ii. 194, Com. St. Matt. vi. 24. "^ Sura iii. 90.

^ Moslems dying on the Pilgrimage are, ipso facto, considered
martjTS. Each step, too, taken by the devotee towards the
Kaaba blots out a sin !


Viewed in its practical working, the visit to
Mecca, so far from having any effect in spirituaHzing
the Hfe, or improving the character of the devotees,
exposes them, according to the testimony of an eye-
witness, to the most demoraUzing influences. Burck-
hardt states that the prevalence of indecent practices
at Mecca tends in no small degree to poison the
morals of the pilgrims, who have opportunity of
witnessing places, the most hallowed in their faith,
polluted by the grossest abominations. He also
states that he has seen the Kaaba itself made the
scene, at nights, of detestable proceedings, which
were pursued without shame or censure. The
truth indeed is, whatever Mahomet hoped from
the institution, that the pilgrimage has become, or
rather continues to be, nothing but a superstitious
and idolatrous pageant, worthless for the purpose of
true religion, and degrading in its ultimate effect on
the soul.i

The use of wine — including all inebriating
liquors — lots, and all games of chance, is absolutely
forbidden. Thus, " in wine and lots .... there is
great sin, and also things of use to men, but their
sinfulness is greater than their use."^ And, again, at a
later time, and in stronger terms : " wine and lots . .

1 To the devout and thoughtful Moslem, the ridiculous cere-
monies of the Pilgrimage must be in painful contrast with the
otherwise decorous externals of his faith. Undoubtedly one of
the idolatrous practices of Arabia, it was retained by Mahomet,
either because it suited his purpose to do so, or because he did
not feel himself strong enough to abolish it, if indeed such an
idea ever occurred to him.

■ Sura ii. 2i6.


are an abomination of Satan ; therefore avoid them,
... by them Satan seeks to divert you from remem-
bering God, and from prayer." i The use of opium,
though not mentioned in the Koran, is deemed
unlawful." -

Salvation, according to Mahomet, is to be secured
by following God's direction, as contained in the
Koran, by believing in the mysteries of the faith,
keeping covenants, observing the appointed times of
prayer, distributing alms, and having a firm assurance of
the life to come, and in performing good works. Such,
it is said, are directed by the Lord, and they shall pros-
per.^ The joys of Paradise are to be obtained only by
the rigid performance of all the observances of the
faith ; and the value of the believer's works are to be
weighed by a hard taskmaster rather than a loving
Father ; the dread of whose displeasure, more than
the smile of whose favour, is to be the motive prin-
ciple of action. In his earlier teaching at Medina,
Mahomet gave utterance to the doctrine that " Jews
and Christians and Sabians, whoever believeth in
God and the last day " * would be saved ; but the
general consensus of orthodox Moslems is, that this
passage is entirely abrogated by a later revelation,
which expressly declares that " whosoever followeth
any other religion than Islam, it shall not be accepted
of him, and in the next life he shall be of those who
perish." ^ The faithful are repeatedly reminded that

' Sura V. 92, 93.

' Regarding the practical observance of these injunctions, vide
Lane, "Modern Egj'ptians," pp. 130-136.

* Sura ii. 1-4, * Sura ii. 59. * Sura iii. 79.



"one soul cannot make satisfaction for another, and
that no intercessor will be accepted for any man, nor
shall any compensation be received." ^ In these and
in other passages of a similar import the idea of an
Intercessor or of any Atonement provided for man is
quite repudiated.

Notwithstanding these positive assertions, the deep
need of fallen humanity for an Intercessor, as a
medium of approach to a holy God, — seen in every
nation, and underlying all religions, — influences the
practice of the majority of the followers of Islam.
Mahomet is made an intercessor, and saints and
imams have been established in various places, at
whose tombs sacrifices are offered, and whose influ-
ence is sought as channels of approach to the All-
Merciful Allah.2

War against infidels, as already related, is com-
manded; the prophet is expressly directed to stir
up the faithful to its performance, and the pro-
mise is held out that superior numbers shall not
avail the enemy. In the infancy of Islam it was
shown to be God's will that captive prisoners should
be cut off; but afterwards their ransom was made

The forty-seventh chapter directs that the un-

' Sura ii. 45.

"^ Burton, ii. pp. 76-309. Also Lane, " Mod. Egj'p.," i. pp. 79,
129, 132, 325 ; ii. pp. 175, 295. Also Freeman, "The Saracens,"
pp. 62, 71. The teaching of the ancient Hindoo faith includes
the doctrine of original sin, and the necessity for regeneration ;
gives rules for the expiation of offences, and inculcates the
belief in some divine incarnation and the need of a saviour
(Monier Williams, " Indian Wisdom," pp. 146, 245, 278,321, et
seq.). ^ Sura viii. 66-69.


believers are to be slaughtered till all opposition
has ceased, and God's religion reign alone. They
who fall in the holy war are to be accounted martyrs,
and their reward is Paradise.^ During the four sacred
months, — Moharram, Rajab, Dzul Caada, and Dzul
Hijja, the first, seventh, eleventh, and twelfth of the
Moslem lunar year, — war may be made on infidels
and on those who do not acknowledge them to be
sacred, otherwise it is to cease while they last.^
Captive women are to be reduced to slavery, and,
though already married, may be taken as concubines.^
The Faithful are forbidden to contract friendship with
Jews, Christians, and unbelievers.'^

Wilful murder is forbidden in the Koran, and
its punishment, in the case of the slaughter of a
believer, is declared to be "Hell fire for ever."*
The law of retaliation is to be enforced for this crime,
the free is to die for the free, the slave for the slave ;
but the heir of the murdered man — the avenger of
blood — may commute the punishment, and " prose-
cute the murderer according to what is just," that is,
accept a fine ; ^ but he is not, on pain of retaliation,
to torture his victim to death, or to exceed what is a
fitting punishment.^ Manslaughter is to be expiated
by a lesser punishment — freeing a believer from cap-
tivity, paying a fine, or fasting two months. Of the
punishment for theft I have already spoken.

' Sura xlvii. 4-7. '^ Sura ix. 36. Sale, P. D., p. 149.

^ Sura iv, 28. * Sura v. 56.

^ Sura iv. 95. ^ Sura ii. 173.

' Sura xvii. 35. The Moslem code in this particular is much
laxer than the Jewish (Numb. xxxv. 31). As to blood revenge,
z'/V/^ Lane, "Mod. Egyp.," i. 145.
O 2


In the case of testamentary documents there
are to be two witnesses, just men, who, on any dis-
pute, are to be examined apart after the evening
prayer, and are to give their evidence on oath.^
By the law of the Koran, primogeniture carries
no especial privileges, but each son has an equal
share in the property of the deceased, and that
share is double the portion allotted to a daughter.
The testator cannot, it would seem, will away from
his family more than one third of his estate, the rest
goes to his children, or brothers, or parents, and to
his wives in certain fixed proportions. The rule is
laid down that men and women ought to have a part
of what their parents and kindred leave,^ and this
seems to have been worthily designed by Mahomet,
to stop the common practice of the pagan Arabs,
who would not allow women and children to have
any inheritance, giving all the goods of the deceased
to those who could go to war.^

Almsgiving is a duty enjoined. Alms are of
two kinds, legal (Zacat), and voluntary (Sadacat),
though this distinction is not always observed.
Under the latter head, the prophet's fifth share of
all booty taken in war is included.* The former, in
the early days of Islam, was collected by officers
especially appointed for the purpose, and amounted
to about a tenth part of the increase. Alms are
directed to be given of the good things which
believers receive, without ostentation ; they are said
to be noticed by God ; and, if done in secret, that

' Sura V. 105. » Sura iv. 8-18.

' Lane, "Mod. Egyp.,'" p. 143. * Muir, iv. 155.


they atone for sins, and shall have their reward. ^
The collection of the legal tithes, as at first the
])ractice under the early Caliphs, has now generally
ceased in Mahometan countries, other taxes having
taken their place, and it is now left to each man's
conscience to give what he will. The Caliph Omar II.
(of the house of Omeya) said that prayer carried the
behever half-way to God, fasting brought him to His
door, and that alms gained him admission. Some
pretend to give the legal alms during the first ten
days of Moharram, and their charity generally takes
the form of distributing food to the poor. Alms-
giving is practised by many who neglect the other
duties of their religion. They look upon it as in-
volving a more personal sacrifice, as fraught with
more immediate benefit, and as a certain method of
securing the prayers and blessings of those whom
they relieve. There are, I doubt not, many of the
Faithful who do their alms in secret, worthily and
acceptably, but the Christian motive for its practice
is little known where Islam holds sway.

Circumcision, though as a rule practised by the
Mahometans, is not a positive precept, not being
mentioned in the Koran. It was practised by the
Arabs before Mahomet's time, and was continued
by the Faithful as an Abrahamic rite. It is not uni-
versal. Some of the Berbers of Morocco do not use
it. Circumcision usually takes place between the sixth
and twelfth years.''

' Sura ii. 266-275.

* Lane, "Mod. Egyp.," i. 82; ii. 278.



It may be proper here to enter somewhat more
fully than has been done in the preceding chapters
into the meaning of some of the principal terms used
in the book, and to enlarge upon some of the divi-
sions of Islam.

The religion founded by Mahomet is called
" Islam," 1 a word meaning " the entire surrender of
the will to God " ; its professors are called " Mussul-
mans," 2 — " those who have surrendered themselves,"
or " Believers," as opposed to the " Rejectors " of the
Divine messengers, who are named " Kafirs," or
Mushrikin,'^ that is, " those who associate, are com-
panions or sharers, with the Deity."

Islam is sometimes divided under the two heads
of Faith, and Practical Religion. I. Faith (Iman)
includes a belief in one God, omnipotent, onmi
scient, all-merciful, the author of all good; and in
Mahomet as his prophet, expressed in the formula
" There is no God but God, and Mahomet is the
Prophet of God." It includes, also, a belief in the
authority and sufficiency of the Koran,* in angels,
genii, and the devil, in the immortality of the soul,
the resurrection,* the day of judgment,** and in

' Sura iii. 17. ' Sura ii. 122. ' Muir, ii. 147.

* Sura xvi. 91, and vi. 114. The word Koran (Quran) is
derived from the Arabic, Quaraa, to read, and means " the read-
ing," or "what ought to be read." It has a variety of other
names, " Al Katab," the book ; " Al Moshaf," the volume ; " Al
Porkan," the book distinguishing between good and evil, &c.

* Sura xvii. 52-54. ° Sura vii. 186, 187 ; Ivi. 1-96.


God's absolute decree for good and evil.^ II. Prac-
tical Religion (Din) consists of five observances : —
(i) Recital of the Formula of Belief, (2) Prayer with
Ablution, (3) Fasting, (4) Almsgiving, (5) the Pil-
grimage. In the above pages I have made more
particular mention of these separate articles of faith,
and acts of devotion.

It will be sufficient here to repeat, though every
act is supposed to be prefaced with the words, " In
the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate "
(Bismillah-hir-rahman-nir-rahim), and though in some
places the Koran seems to deny the meritorious
efficacy of good works, that, in the belief of the
orthodox. Paradise is only to be obtained by a
strict performance of all the practical duties above

The standard of Moslem orthodoxy is essentially the
Koran, and to it primary reference is made ; but, this
being found insufficient, as Islam extended its borders,
to regulate the complex, social, and political relations
of the empire, and the administration of justice in
civil and criminal cases, some more extended and
discriminating code became necessary. The defi-
ciency was supplied by the compilation of the " Sun-
nah," or " Traditional Law," which is built upon the
sayings and practices of Mahomet, and, in the opinion
of the orthodox, is " invested with the force of law,
and with some of the authority of inspiration." ^

The traditions appear to have remained un-

Sura XXX. 29 ; 1. 28.

' Muir, i. 31. The collections of these traditions are also
called "Hadls" (conf. "Notes on Muhammadanism," v. "The
Traditions," p. 30).


recorded for about a century after the death ot
Mahomet, when they were formally collected by
Omar II., and the work was continued by his suc-
cessors. An incredible number of so-called " Tra-
ditions," fabricated for the purpose of uphold-
ing certain political and sectarian claims, were
subsequently rejected, and the Sunnah condensed
and promulgated for the guidance of the faithful.
" The six standard Sunni collections were com-
piled exclusively under the Abbasside caliphs, and
the earliest of them partly during the reign of Al
Mamun.^ The four canonical collections of the
Shias were prepared somewhat later, and are in-
comparably less trustworthy than the former, because
their paramount object is to build up the divine
Imamat, or headship of Ali and his descendants." 2

In cases where both the Koran and the Sunnah
afford no exact precept, the "Rule of Faith" in
their dogmatic belief, as well as the decisions of
their secular courts, is based upon the teaching of
one of the four great Imams, or founders of the
orthodox sects, according as one or another of these
prevails in any particular country.

These sects, though all are considered sound
in fundamentals, differ in some points of law and
religion, and follow the interpretation of the Koran,
and the traditions of the four great doctors, Abu
Hanifa, Malik, Al Shafei, and Ibn Hambal.^ The

' A.D. 814-834.

^ Muir, i. 41. The Wahabees receive the "Sunnah," which
is acknowledged by the Sunnis, and call themselves, par excel-
lence, " People of the Traditions."

' The Hanifee school which is considered the most catholic
and reasonable, prevails in Turkey, Egypt, and North India. In


great Sunni sect is divided among the orthodox
schools mentioned above, and is so called from
its reception of the " Sunnah," as having authority
concurrent with and supplementary to the Koran.i

In this respect it differs essentially from the
" Shias," or partisans of the house of Ali, who,
adhering to their own traditions, reject the authority
of the " Sunnah." These two sects, moreover, have
certain observances and matters of belief peculiar to
themselves, the chief of which is the Shia doctrine,
that the sovereign Imamat, or temporal and spiritual
headship over the faithful_ was by divine right vested
in Ali and in his descendants, through Hasan and
Hosein, the children of Fatima, the daughter of the
prophet. And thus the Persian Shias add to the
formula of belief, the confession, " Ali is the Caliph
of God."

In Persia the Shia doctrines prevail, and formerly
so intense was sectarian hatred, that the Sunni

Cairo, the inhabitants are either Shafe-ees or Malikees. The
Malikee sect is dominant in Morocco and in otlier parts of
Africa. The Arabians and the Moslems of Southern India gene-
rally follow the teaching of Al Shafei. Very few, except in
Arabia, belong to the school of Ibn Hambal. While all admit
the leading dogmas of Islam, these schools condescend to dis-
pute over imimporlant trivialities, such as the correct method of
ablution, the exact position at prayer, &c. Ibn Ilambal was
scourged by Motasem Billah, eighth Caliph of Baglidad, for
asserting that the Koran was uncreated. There are also num-
berless sects called heterodox, being considered heretical in
fundamentals {vide Sale, P. D., chap. viii. ).

' Each of these sects has its *' oratory," or place of prayer,
round the Kaaba and within the sacred enclosure of the " Mas-
jid-al-Haram." Each one also (except the Hambalees) has a
mufti, or expounder of tlieir particular law, at Mecca.

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