J. W. H. (James William Hampson) Stobart.

Islam & its founder online

. (page 14 of 18)
Online LibraryJ. W. H. (James William Hampson) StobartIslam & its founder → online text (page 14 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Mahometans paid a higher capitation tax there than
the infidels. In Turkey the great majority are
Sunni. In India the Shias number about one in
twenty. The Shias, who reject this name, and call
themselves " Adliyah," or the " Society of the Just,"
are sub-divided into a great variety of minor sects ;
but these, whatever their particular views, are united
in asserting that the first three Caliphs, Abu Bekr,
Omar, and Othman, were usurpers, who had pos-
sessed themselves of the rightful and inalienable
inheritance of Ali. For this reason, too, they detest
the memory of the Omeyade Caliphs, and especially
Yezid, whom they accuse of the murder of the
martyr Hosein. Of this more particular mention
will be hereafter made.^

" According to the Shias, the Muslim religion
consists of a knowledge of the true Imam, or leader,
and the differences amongst themselves with reference
to this question have given rise to endless divisions."*
The twelve Imams of the Shia sect are, i, Ali;
2, Hasan ; 3, Hosein ; 4, Zain-al-Abid-Din, and his
eight lineal descendants, the last of whom, the
twelfth, was Abu Kasim, or, as he is called, Imam Mahdi.

' Freeman, "The Saracens," p. 227. Ilumayun, the " Great
Mogul," when driven out of India, was obliged, on pain of
death, to adopt the Shia doctrines, by Tamasp, second " Sophi,"
King of Persia. Aurungzebe was Sunni, and put one of his
brothers to death on the pretext that he had adopted the Shia
heresy. For an account of the Shia sects vide Sale, P. D., viii.
p. 75. And for the chief points of difference between them and
the Sunnis, p. 178. See also "Notes on Muhammadanism,"
xliii., "The Shias," p. 169.

* "Notes on Muhammadanism," p. 171 et seq.


He is supposed by them to be still alive, though
concealed from public eye, and is to come again to
extinguish all disputes among the true believers.

Sufi-ism. — In India and Persia, and through-
out the East, there has for centuries existed a pan-
theistic mysticism which has developed itself chiefly
in a search for metaphysical purity, for the illumina-
tion of the mind, for calmness of soul, and for the
subjugation of the passions, by the exercise of painful
austerities, and the adoption of an ascetic life. The
adherents of this system believed that the divine
nature pervaded all things, and gave its very
essence and being to the soul itself, which thus
sought to gain a conformity to the Supreme Being,
and more and more to sever itself from the
things of earth, like a wearied traveller, seeking to
terminate the period of its exile from its divine
original. From this pantheistic mysticism, akin to
the doctrine of the Indian Vedanta, Plato is sup-
posed to have derived the germs of some of his teach-
ing; and from it the Mahometan Sufis ^ had their
origin. The final object of the Sufi devotee is to
attain to the light of Heaven, towards which he must
press fonvard till perfect knowledge is reached in his
union with God, to be consummated, after death, in
absorption into the Divine Being. In this spiritual
journey of the disciple there are various stages ; he is
led up from his natural state, through science, love
(Ishaq), seclusion, knowledge, ecstacy, touch, and,
lastly, union with God, to final extinction. It should

* A word derived by some from suf, wool (Arabic), the ma-
terial worn by the devotees, or from the Greek ao^og.


be noticed that the terms love of God, truth, &c.,
have, in Sufi theology, an especial and mystic mean-
ing, very different from their usual acceptation in
Christian terminology. Their chief doctrines are
taught under the images of wine, love, flowing ring-
lets, and intoxication ; and they are supposed to be
thus set forth in the Anacreontic verses of Hafiz, the
distinguished Sufi poet.^

The Wahabees derive their name from Abdul
Wahab, the father of Sheikh Muhammad, their founder,
who arose about the beginning of the last century, in
the province of Najd, in Arabia. The object of the
Wahabee movement was to sweep away all later inno-
vations, and to return to the original purity of Islam,
as based upon the exact teaching of the Koran and
the example of Mahomet. The principles of the sect
rapidly spread among the Arab tribes, and were
adopted by the sovereign princes of Darayeh, in
Najd. Impelled by religious zeal and political am-
bition, and allured by the prospect of plunder, the
Wahabees soon acquired nearly the whole of Arabia,
and menaced the neighbouring Pashaliks of Turkey,
and Egypt. Mecca and Medina soon fell into their
hands, the shrine was despoiled of its rich ornaments,
and the pilgrim route to the Kaaba closed for some
years. Early in this century (1811), Muhammad Ali,
the Pasha of Egypt, at the bidding of the Sultan, set
himself to check the progress of this aggressive sect ;
and his son Ibrahim Pasha completed the work (18 18)
by the total defeat of Abdallah, their leader, who was
sent to Constantinople and executed. The chief seat
of their power at present is in Eastern Arabia, but

' Conf. Hughes, "Notes on Muhammadanism/' p. 162.


followers of the sect exist in most Mahometan
countries. The leader of the sect in India was Syud
Ahmed, born at Rai Bareli, in Oudh, in 1706.1

It only remains to notice the Darveshes- or
Faqirs.'^ and it will only be possible in our limited
space to glance at the principal orders, the lesser
being so numerous that D'Ohsson reckons thirty-
two. They " are divided into two great classes : the
' Ba-Shara ' (with the law), or those who govern their
conduct according to the principles of Islam ; and the
' Be-Shara ' (without the law), or those who do not rule
their lives according to the principles of any religious
creed, although they call themselves Mussulmans." ■•
The former, however, only can properly be so con-
sidered. They trace their line of succession from
Abu Bekr (Sadiq) and Ali-al-Murtuza, the first and
fourth Caliphs, who are said to have founded the
orders of faqirs. Some writers have distinguished
their minor sects by their dress and religious per-
formances ; but this rule does not seem to hold, and
it is impossible to become exactly acquainted with
their peculiar rules and ceremonies, as, like those of
the Freemasons, they are concealed from the unini-

' Tlie following particulars of the Wahabec reform need only
be added. They reject the decisions of the "four orthodox
doctors," and the intercession of saints ; they condemn the
excessive reverence paid to Mahomet, and deny his mediation,
until the last day. They also disapprove of the ornamenting of
tombs, pilgrimages to particular shrines, offerings, &c.

- From the Persian "dar," a door = beggars from door to

' From the Arabic " faqir," poor, but used rather as poor in
the sight of God than of men.

* Hughes, " Notes on JNIuhanmiadanism," p. 139.


tialed. Some of them practise the most severe
austerities and mortifications.

The order which has excited most interest in
Europe, being popular in Constantinople, is that of the
" Maulevis," or dancing darveshes, whose ceremonies
constitute one of the principal sights of that city, and
have often been described by travellers and pictured
by artists. Their founder was a native of Balkh, in
Central Asia, and is said to have exhibited remarkable
faith and miraculous power from his infancy. The
darveshes or faqirs are either " Murids " (disciples) or
" Murshids " (guides), and the places where the latter
give their instructions are held sacred, and carefully
kept free from pollution. Those faqirs who attain to
great sanctity are called "Walis," and the highest rank
of these is that of a " Ghaus," such as the Akhund of
Swat, on the north-west frontier of India.

The particular ceremony or act of devotion com-
mon to all classes of darveshes is the "Zikr," or
repetition of the names of God in many different
ways. It is a sort of physical exercise, depending
upon the lungs, muscles, and patient practice of the
worshipper, and would appear to a Christian the very
opposite of rational devotion. There are two classes
of Zikr, one which is recited aloud, and the other
performed with a low voice or mentally ; and each is
divided into several zarbs, or stages. As an instance :
the third zarb of the quiet prayer consists in repeating
the words " La-il-la-ha " with each exhalation of the
breath, and " Il-lal-la-ho"i with each inhalation ; and
being performed hundreds, or even thousands of times,
it is most exhausting, and proportionately meritorious.
' Combined, these syllables make " Thete is no deity but God."


The meditation (Muraqaba) is usually combined
with the Zikr, and is founded on favourite verses of
the Koran. It must, one would suppose, form a
needed rest after so fatiguing an exercise. "The
most common form of Zikr is a recital of the ninety-
nine names of God, for Muhammad promised those
of his followers who recited them a sure entrance into
paradise."! To assist this repetition rosaries are used,
but not by the Wahabees, who count on their fingers.
It has been conjectured that the Mahometans derived
the rosary from the Buddhists, and that the Crusaders
again took it from them (A.D. i loo). Moulvics declare
that the mind is preserved from the intrusion of evil
thoughts by the performance of the Zikr ; but it is
worthy of remark, that some of those most devoted
to its use are the most immoral of men.^

Sufficient for the purpose of this manual has
been said about the daily and periodical religious
duties of the faithful ; and I now pass to a brief
consideration of their belief regarding the soul and
body after separation. On the occurrence of death — as
burial must, as a rule, take place the same day — the
necessary preparations are at once begun. The body
is washed, wrapped in one or two pieces of cotton
cloth, and so carried to the grave, usually a vaulted
chamber, with observances and attendants regulated
by the wealth of the deceased.

The Mahometans believe that the soul remains
with the body during the first night after burial
for the purpose of being interrogated by the two
angels, Munkir and Nakir. Laid on the right side,

' Hughes, "Notes on Muhamrnadanism," pp. 155.
'lb., 154.


with the sightless eyes turned towards Mecca, the
dead awaits the coming of the dread inquisitors.
Aroused to a sitting posture and to temporary hfe, he
answers their inquiries as to his faith in God and in
his prophet regarding the " Book of Directions," the
Koran, and whether or not the Kaaba was his Kibla.
If the answers be unsatisfactory, they torture and beat
the dead about the temples with their iron maces ; if
satisfactory, they give him their peace, and bid him
sleep on in the protection of God. The examination
in the grave is founded on tradition, and is supposed
also to be twice alluded to in the Koran, though
certain sects deny it altogether. Thus : " How, there-
fore, will it be with them (the unbelievers), when the
angels shall cause them to die, and shall strike their
faces and their backs. "^

On the completion of this examination the soul
is conveyed to a place called Berzakh,^ or "the
Barrier," the Hades of separate spirits, there to remain
till reunited to the body. The faithful are, according
to their works, in various degrees of happiness. The
souls of the prophets are at once admitted to Paradise ;
those of martyrs dwell in the crops of green birds,
which eat of the fruits and drink the waters of the
happy gardens, &c. ] while the souls of the wicked
have a foretaste of those torments which, when re-
united to their bodies, they are to suffer for ever.

The general resurrection and judgment, in which

' Sura xlvii. 29. See also Sura viii. 52 ; Sale, P. D., sec. iv.;
and Lane, ii. chap. xv. At the funeral of the rich in Egypt, a
sacrifice, called "the expiation," is offered, generally a buffalo,
the flesh of which is given to the poor.

^ Suras xxiii. 102 ; xxv. 55.


are to be included all beings, even as it appears,
the brute creation,^ will be announced by the
trumpet of the angel " Israfil," when, " the earth
shall shine by the light of its Lord, and the book
shall be laid open, and every soul shall be fully
rewarded according to what it shall have wrought.
And the unbelievers shall be driven unto hell by
troops, — but those who shall have feared their Lord,
shall be conducted by troops towards paradise "
(Sura xxxix. 67-73).

Such is a general outline of the last day, which
clearly indicates a belief in individual responsibility,
and that the sentence of happiness or misery is regu-
lated according to each man's works, which are to be
weighed in the just balance " that hangs over Paradise
and Hell, and is capacious enough to hold both
Heaven and Earth." ^ The judgment being over, the
Faithful, and the '•' companions of the left hand," have
still one final ordeal to undergo, viz., the passage of
the bridge " Al Sirat," which, spanning " the deep
abyss of hell," is finer than a hair, and sharper than
the edge of a sword. Over it the true Moslems,
headed by their prophet, will pass into Paradise, with
the fleetness of the wind, whilst the wicked will fall
headlong into the gulf beneath.^ The teaching of
the Koran regarding heaven and hell has already
been noticed.

' Sura vi. 38. " There is no kind of beast on earth, nor fowl —
bat the same is a people like unto you — unto their Lord shall
they return."

' Sale, P. D., p. 89. Comp. Sura xxiii. 104, 105.

^ This myth of the bridge " Al Sirat" rests on tradition, and
was taken from the Magians (conf. Sale, P. D., sec. iv.).



News of the prophet's death soon spread among
his disciples. The fiery Omar combated the asser-
tion, and maintained that a swoon only had fallen
on him, but Abu Bekr, in words of the Koran itself,^
assured the Faithful that from tne common lot of
humanity there was no exemption even for the apostle
of God. And so Mahomet's body was prepared for
the grave, and, clad in the garments in which he died,
was buried in Ayesha's chamber, beneath the spot
where the angel of death had visited him.

Abu Bekr, not without some show of opposi-
tion on the part of the " Ansar," was elected Caliph
or successor of the apostle, having, as was asserted
by his supporters, been virtually nominated to the
office by Mahomet himself. ^

The dignity of Caliph, it should be remem-
bered, carried with it the supreme temporal and
spiritual authority over the Faithful. Throughout

' Sura xxxix. 31 : "Verily, thou, O Mahomet, shalt die."
- The Ansar put forward Sad, one of their , number. It was
thought by the partizans of Ali that his marriage with Fatima
gave him an inlierent right to the succession. This claim, after-
wards intensified, divides to the present day the Mahometan


Arabia the deatli of the prophet was followed by a
general spirit of insurrection among the Bedouin
tribes, who eagerly sought to shake off their allegiance
to the new faith ; but in the first year of his reign,
Abu Bekr succeeded not only in reducing them to
obedience, but also, by the prospect of boundless
plunder, and the joys of Paradise, in enlisting their
numbers, and in pressing into the service of the faith
the irresistible fanaticism of these children of the

Under Khalid, the province of Irak was overrun,
and the city of Ambar, and that of Hira with its
Christian population, subjected to tribute. War
was declared against Heraclius, and Syria invaded.
Khalid was directed to join his troops to those of
Abu-Obeida in the valley of the Jordan, and at the
battle of Aiznadin the forces of the Byzantine
monarchy were totally defeated. At this conjuncture"
Abu Bekr died, after a short reign of two years and
four months, and Omar, who had been nominated to
the dignity by his predecessor, was regarded as
Caliph. 1

Under the Caliph Omar (A.D. 634 — 643) the
tide of conquest rolled on. Bostra and Damascus,
Antioch and Aleppo fell and became tributary, and
Syria was finally subdued. The victory of Yermouk
(A.D. 636) gave the invaders entry into Palestine, and
Jerusalem surrendered to the Caliph in person.
Mounted on his camel, a bag of dates and a skin of

' Abu Bekr was a man of the purest character. His friend-
ship for Muh'Tnet, and unwavering belief in his mission, are a
strong testimony to the sincerity of the prophet.
P 2


water by his side — ample provision for his simple
wants, — he made his entry into the sacred city.
Honourable terms of capitulation were granted to its
inhabitants, and the provisions of the treaty faithfully
observed. On mount Moriah, the site of the temple
of Solomon, he obtained permission to erect " The
Dome of the Rock," which, as the Mosque of Omar,
bears his name to this day.

Meanwhile, the great victory of Cadesia (A.D.
636), won by his lieutenants over Yesdejird —
the last of the Sassanidse, — was followed by the
capture of the capitals Ctesiphon and Seleucia ; while
the subsequent " victory of victories " on the plain of'
Nahavend finally subjected Persia to tribute or the
faith. Eygpt, too, on the fall of Memphis and
Alexandria (A.D. 640), was wrested from the Roman
Empire by Amru, and with part of Libya incorporated
"with the caliphate.

Omar was the first who bore the title of " Prince
of the Faithful," and though his empire extended
from the Orontes to the Arabian Sea, and from
the Caspian to the Nile, he affected no regal state,
was the friend and companion of the beggar and
the poor, and in his mud palace at Medina was
ready to share his meal with the humblest brother in
the faith. There is a grand simplicity, and a heroism,
in the lives of these early warriors of the crescent
which irresistibly strikes the imagination, and places
them in noble contrast with the cruel and effeminate
despots who soon succeeded them. Omar perished
by the hand of a Persian slave (A.D. 643), and ^vith
him the golden age of the undivided caliphate begins


to pass away. Before his death he confided to six of
the chiefs at Medina the selection of a successor,
and the choice fell on Othman, who had married in
succession two of the daughters of the prophet.

AH was thus again passed over, but loyally gave
in his adherence to the new Caliph, whose lieu-
tenants continued to extend and consolidate the
empire. The victorious army of the Arabs were
carried to the pillars of Hercules, though the north
coast of Africa was not totally subdued for sixty years.
The coasts of Andalusia were menaced, Cyprus (A.D.
647) and Rhodes (A.D. 652) subdued, and Nubia
made tributary ; while eastward the great province of
Khorassan, which had been invaded by Omar, with
its towns of Balkh and Nisabor, was added to the
empire of the Caliph.

Compared with Abu Bekr and Omar, simple
and zealous apostles of the faith, the character
of Othman showed, in many respects, an infe-
riority which weakened his influence, and eventually
hastened his death. Though brave and liberal,
the weight of seventy years pressed upon him, and
his facile disposition inclined him to lend too favour-
able an ear to the solicitations of his near relations
and personal friends, and this to the prejudice of
those whose services gave them the strongest claim to
the important offices of the State. Discontent at the
favouritism which prevailed became general, rival
and ambitious chiefs spread the disaffection, and the
tumults which arose ended in the murder of the aged
Caliph (A.D. 654). With his violent death begins
that long story of bloodshed and treachery which


henceforth stains the history of Islam ; and which,
arising from poHtical ambition, and theological dis-
putes regarding de jure and de facto rights, is to this
day illustrated by the bitterest sectarian feelings, and
not unfrequently by deeds of blood.

The apparently unanimous voice of the people
of Medina raised to the throne, Ali, the nearest
relative, and the son-in-law of the Prophet. A large
section, indeed, of Mahometans, the Shias, as I have
above stated, consider that in him and in his sons
Hasan and Hosein — the sole descendants of the
Prophet — was vested from the first a divine and in-
alienable right to the spiritual and temporal leader-
ship of the Faithful. They thus look upon the first
three Caliphs as usurpers. The legitimate succession
of these three princes is upheld by the great Sunni
sect, who differ from their Shia opponents in this, and
in other particulars of a more purely doctrinal nature.
The Sunnis assert that Mahomet never intended, and
in reality took no steps, to establish any hereditary
right in his descendants, but left to the Faithful the
free choice of their prince and Imam.

The chivalrous Ali (A.D. 654), the Bayard of the
faith, had at length reached the goal of his ambition,
but his short reign was an uninterrupted scene of civil
war, which stopped the conquests begun by his pre-
decessors, and terminated only with his untimely
death at the assassin's hand, Amru, Governor of
Egypt, Ayesha, the " Mother of the Faithfjl," and
Muavia, who ruled in Syria, continued his bitter and
successful opponents to the end.

Muavia, the son of Abu-Sofian and of Hind


who owed his fortune and position to Othman,
refused to acknowledge Ali as lawful Caliph, called
him a "man of blood," and justified his own
defection under the pretext that Ali had insti-
gated the murder of his predecessor. He further
announced his intention of avenging the innocent
blood which had been shed, and for this purpose
usurped the independent government of the province
in which he commanded. He was the first Caliph of
the dynasty of the Omeyades, so called from the name
of his ancestor, Omeya, the son of Abd-Shams. Four-
teen princes of this house reigned at Damascus during
the next hundred years (A.D. 654-752); till by the
employment of arts similar to those they had used
against the family of Ali, their power was under-
mined, their race hunted down and nearly exter-
minated, and in their place the great house of the
Abbassides became rulers of the Eastern caliphate
from their seat at Baghdad. Of the Omeyades one
prince only, Abd-al-Rahman, escaped the proscrip-
tion, and, making his way to Spain, founded the
dynasty which continued for three centuries at Cor-
dova (A.D. 756-1038).

On the assassination of Ali (A.D. 660), his son
Hasan was acknowledged Caliph in Arabia, and in
the province of Babylonia,^ but his pacific dispo-
sition induced him, after six months, to surrender his
sovereign rights to Muavia, who already reigned in
Syria and Egypt. Hasan retired into private life at
Medina, employing his time in prayer and almsgiving,
and was subsequently poisoned by his wife at the

' Irak-Arabi.


instigation of the tyrant whom his resignation had
confirmed on the throne.

Muavia died in A.D. 679, and was succeeded by his
son, Yezid. The latter unsuccessfully laid siege to Con-
stantinople, but extended his victories through Khoras-
san and Turkestan. The cities of Mecca and Medina
had not, however, been consulted regarding the suc-
cession of Yezid, and encouraged the general disaffec-
tion against him. Hosein, the second son of AH, was
induced, especially by his adherents at Cufa, to raise
the standard of revolt, and assert his sacred and inalien-
able right to the sovereign Imamat over the Faithful.

There is no event in history more mournful
than the story of the martyrdom of the sainted
Hosein.i Overtaken on his way from Mecca to join
his adherents on the Euphrates, he was surrounded
and perished with seventy-two of his nearest relatives.
The Shia sect, which pays to Ali and his sons honours
not inferior to those given to INIahomet, detests the
name of Yezid, keeps, with demonstrations of pas-
sionate grief, the festival of Hosein's death, and has
made his tomb at the Kerbela a place of pilgrimage
hardly inferior to Mecca.^

• Conf. Macaulay, " Life of Clive " ; Freeman, "The Sara-
cens," p. 89, el seq.

^ The head of Hosein was sent to Damascus and interred in
succession there and at Ascalon. Finally, it was taken to Cairo
by the Fatimite Caliphs, and is reported to rest in the Mosque
of the Hasanayn's. At the tomb of Fatima, in El Bakia, her

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18

Online LibraryJ. W. H. (James William Hampson) StobartIslam & its founder → online text (page 14 of 18)