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and gifted with remarkable political insight and sagac-
ity. After her husband's death she ruled as Queen of
Palmyra, and personally conducted successful conquests,
causing the nations around to tremble before her; and
even Rome itself found her no mean antagonist in arms.
The high spirit of the queen would not permit her to account
herself a vassal even to the imperial city on the Tiber.
She had won Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and parts of
Asia Minor to her sovereignty, but in the contest with
Rome she was defeated, though many Romans had joined
her army. The battles of Antioch and Emesa were lost.
Zenobia fled to the Persians, but was captured. Those
near her were put to death, but Zenobia graced the tri-
umph of Aurelian, the victorious general who led her into
the Roman capital in A. D. 271. For years she resided
there with gracious dignity and unconquered pride. She
was essentially a woman of affairs and as queen was mis-
tress of every situation, giving all to know, "I am queen,
and while I live I will reign." As wife she is said to have
declined to cohabit with her husband, except so far as was
necessary to the raising up of an heir to the throne of
Palmyra. The brilliancy of her court was scarcely ever
surpassed by any queen, while her personal charms and
almost marvellous achievements rendered her one of the
most remarkable, if not the greatest woman of ancient
times.

In the days of Mohammed a new influence is brought to
bear upon Arab life, and therefore upon female character.
Mohammed's relation to woman might be of itself length-
ened into an interesting chapter. Abdullah, Mohammed's



THE WOMEN OF ARABIA 225

father, was married to a woman of noble parentage, named
Aminah. She was a woman of sensitive, nervous tem-
perament, and her son doubtless inherited from his mother
qualities which made his subsequent religious ecstasies both
physically and mentally possible. Aminah is reported to
have been miraculously free from the pangs of childbirth
when her son first saw the light. For several months she
nursed the infant, but sorrow is said to have soon dried up
the fountain of her breast, and Halimah, a woman of marked
fidelity to her charge, became Mohammed's foster-mother.
A kahin, or sorcerer, is said once to have met Halimah
with the boy. " Kill this child," said he; "kill this child."
But Halimah, snatching up the child, made away in haste.
The sorcerer saw in the boy an enemy of the ancient
idolatrous faith.

It was not till the rich widow of Mecca, Khadijah, came
into Mohammed's life that he began to make himself felt
in the world. Wishing someone to attend to some busi-
ness affairs for her, Khadijah secured Mohammed's services.
So well did he execute his task that the rich widow be-
came enamored of the young man. She asked him for
his hand. At twenty-five years of age, Mohammed mar-
ried the woman who was destined to influence his life so
powerfully, she being at least fifteen years his senior. It
was not long before Mohammed turned his thoughts toward
religion and set himself to the task of reforming the reli-
gious ideas and practices of his people. With what result
the world knows.

It is Mohammed's attitude toward woman and his teach-
ings concerning her that most concern us here. His love
for Khadijah, his first wife, was pure and constant; and
his mother he always honored with a most devoted
spirit. It is with reference to Mohammed's personal
bearing toward the female sex that he has received the



226 WOMAN

most scathing criticisms. How many times he was mar-
ried subsequently to his wedding with Khadijah is a matter
of dispute; but there were probably no less than fourteen
other wives, besides the widow of Mecca. Since Moham-
med allowed his faithful followers but four wives, it was
necessary to explain why he himself should have exceeded
that meagre number. The prophet was ready with his
reply, that while men generally were to have no more
than four, a special revelation to himself had given him
the right to go beyond that number.

Among those whom Mohammed espoused was his child
wife Ayesha, who lived long after the death of the prophet
and took an active part in shaping the political history of
Islam immediately after Mohammed's demise. She fos-
tered a burning dislike toward Ali, Mohammed's son-in-
law, to whom the prophet had given his daughter Fatima.
Because of Ayesha's intrigues Ali was unable to succeed
Mohammed as kalif. Abubekr, Omar, and Othman in
turn held sway. But at length Ali was victorious, taking
Ayesha a prisoner and becoming the fourth of the line of
the kalifate. Ayesha in personal daring belonged to the
heroic type of Arabian womanhood. In the battle of
the Camel, A. D. 656, she actually led the charge. Ali,
like his distinguished father-in-law, considered himself an
exception to the ordinary rule which accorded but four
wives to the faithful, having married eight others besides
his loved Fatima.

Among the kalifs there was none whose court was more
magnificent than that of Haroun al Raschid. So greatly did
he dazzle the eyes of his generation by his brilliancy, that
his name became associated with many romances. The
account of the wives and favorites of Haroun borrow a
halo from their association with his illustrious name. The
Thousand and One Nights are replete with the romantic



THE WOMEN OF ARABIA 22/

adventures of the days of this brilliant kalif. But the
actual life of the women of the Arabian peninsula cannot
be accurately gauged by the appearance they made in the
stories of romantic adventure.

Mohammed's attitude to woman has, of course, been
the decisive religious influence in shaping the history of
woman's life among the followers of Islam since his
day. The Mohammedans have a legend that when Adam
and Eve sinned, God commanded that their lives should
be purified by both the culprits standing naked in the
river Jordan for forty days. Adam obeyed, and so be-
came comparatively pure again; but Eve refused to be
thus washed, and, of course, her standing before God has
been relatively lower ever since.

The Mohammedan woman does not worship upon an
equality with the man. Not that the prophet positively
forbade the female sex from public attendance upon wor-
ship at the mosque, but he counselled that they should
make their prayers in private. In some parts of the wide
territory under the prophet's power, neither women nor
young boys are allowed to enter the mosque at the time
of prayer. At other places women may come, but must
place themselves apart from men, and always behind them.
"The Moslems are of the opinion," says Sale, "that the
presence of females inspired a different kind of devotion
from that which is requisite in a place dedicated to the
worship of God," and adds that very few women among
the Arabs in Egypt even pray at home.

The Koran has much to say of woman. One lengthy
sura is taken up almost entirely by this theme. The
ancient doctrine of woman's creation from the man is
accepted, and probably was derived from contact with the
Jews, the influence of which contact is marked throughout
Vlohammed's teachings. Honor "for the woman who has



228 WOMAN

borne you" is frequently taught; justice and kindness
toward female orphans is repeatedly enjoined. Women
should be given freely their just dowries, and should not
be omitted from the rights of inheritance; but a son may
receive as much as two daughters. The prohibited de-
grees for marriage are most carefully laid down. Accusing
a chaste woman of adultery is regarded as one of the
seven grievous sins. The prophet counsels that husband
and wife adjust their disputes amicably between them-
selves, "for a reconciliation is better than a separation."
Thus one after another, in a manner altogether lacking in
order or in systematic treatment, Mohammed gives forth
his commands concerning women. Matters of marriage,
divorce, dower, chastity, and the like are frequently before
the prophet's mind; but his precepts, while making con-
cessions to human weakness, are far higher than his ex-
ample. The teachings of Mohammed, even at their best,
placed woman on a distinctly lower plane than man, ren-
dered her a subservient tool on the earth and painted a
heaven where man's sensuality was to be gratified to the
limits of his capacity for enjoyment.

The Arabs, while sensual in their nature, have some
strict laws concerning chastity. If a woman be guilty of
lewdness, she is summarily put to death by her nearest
relative!; Unless this be don^ the family will lose all social
recognition and civil rights, i^ If it appears that she has
been forced to the crime, th'is ravisher must flee or pay
the penalty with his life, or if not, the life of those next of
kin is in danger. If the malefactor be caught at once he is
slain by the relatives of the woman. If not he may escape
death through negotiations by which "the price of blood"
is paid for the woman as if she had been killed. Sometimes
arrangements of marriage are effected, but even then "the
price of virginity " must be paid to the girl's parents.



THE WOMEN OF ARABIA 229

The method by which a family purifies itself of the un-
chastity of a daughter is horrible enough. The family of
the young woman assembles in some public place; the
sheiks and leading men are present in considerable num-
ber. Some close relative stands with sword in hand, and
says: "My honor and that of my family shall be purified
this day by means of this sword which I hold in my
hands." The guilty woman is then led out, laid upon the
ground, and her head severed from her body at the hands
of her father, brother, or some next of kin. The execu-
tioner then walks dignifiedly about the bleeding form three
times, passing between the head and the trunk of the
body, saying at each circuit: " Lo! thus our honor is left
unstained," All dip their handkerchiefs in the blood of the
culprit and take their leave, without any show of emotion.
The body is left unburied, or is hacked to pieces by the
woman's relatives and cast into a ditch.

Often, however, it is possible to save the young girl's
life. Someone who is sufficiently kindly disposed toward
her steps forward at the critical moment when she is
being led forth to death and intercedes to save her life.
This protector approaches the girl and says to her: "Wilt
thou repent of thy fall.'* If so, I will defend thee." She
replies aifirmatively: "I will give thee the right to cut
my throat if I commit this crime again." The man is then
required to strip off his clothing in the presence of the
multitude, declare that he has never seen this woman
commit any crime, that it must therefore be the power of
an evil spirit that took possession of her; "I therefore
redeem her," says he. Then the whole scene changes
from one of tragic solemnity to one of intense joy. The
girl returns to the bosom of her family, reinstated; and no
one thereafter has the right to cast any reflections upon
her past life.



230 WOMAN

■ Pierrotti, in his Customs and Traditions of Palestine, tells
of a scene witnessed by him when architect-engineer to
Surraya Pasha, of Jerusalem. During a visit to Hebron
in company with some Armenian gentlemen, he found the
whole community stirred. A youth of eighteen had met in
the fields a girl of fifteen, who was betrothed, and had tried
to kiss her without her consent. She told her parents of
the young man's misconduct. The families belonged to
different clans or districts, and so were enemies. Efforts
on the part of the boy's parents, through the sheiks of the
two communities, were unavailing, though the father en-
treated earnestly for his son, and even promised to give
up all he had as a ransom for his life. The girl's father
demanded the boy's blood as propitiation for the wrong.
And so, in the presence of an assembled crowd, the parent
drew his sword and struck off his child's head, without a
tear, saying: " Thus wipe I away every stain from my
family." Overcome, he then instantly swooned away.
His friends restored him to life, but his reason had fled. A
clan war at once commenced, and those who had demanded
the youth's destruction were slain in the strife.

Concerning the slaying of a woman, there are certain
customs which sound strange to the Western ear, but are
in keeping with the general law of "the price of blood"
which prevailed among the ancient Hebrews, though in a
somewhat modified form. If a man should be so unfortu-
nate as to kill a woman, the members of the family that is
wronged seek revenge, just as is the case should a man be
slain, but "the price of blood " is never so high in case of
the woman, it being about two thousand piastres, or about
eighty dollars. This sum goes largely to the relatives of
the woman. If the woman be married, the husband's
damage is measured at eight hundred piastres and a silk
dress. Should the murdered woman be pregnant, the



THE WOMEN OF ARABIA 231

slayer is amerced as if he had killed two. If the offspring
would have been a boy, it is as though a woman and a
man were slain, and "the price of blood" is so measured.
If it would have been a daughter, the smaller price is
charged, the father receiving the full price for the child
and his eight hundred piastres for the murdered wife.
Should it be a maiden, however, who has been slain,
arrangement is often made whereby a sister of the slayer
is given by her family to the brother of the slain as his
wife; or if this arrangement is not feasible, the price of a
woman is paid as first described.

A very curious custom exists among the Arabs in con-
nection with the ancient "law of asylum." They recog-
nize the right of sanctuary for those upon whom summary
vengeance may be taken for some blood crime. But flight
is often exceedingly dangerous because of the possibility of
ambuscade along the way; and even when a village which
owes protection to a fugitive undertakes to give him safe
escort, the defenders may be overcome and the offender
slain. Under such circumstances, it is customary to give
him over to the escort of two women, who are his defend-
ers. For it is a point of honor among Arabs not to attack
or harm anybody or anything that has been placed under
the protection of a woman.

That the modern Arab sometimes, however, has great
confidence in the power of his wives, over others at least,
may be illustrated by an amusing incident told by Loftus.
During his researches his party was attacked by a com-
pany of Arabs, on account of which some of the assaulting
party had been seized and lodged in prison. One of the
chief sheiks of the country came to make friends with
the explorer and to entreat for the release of the culprits.
This was refused. Later a coup was conceived. Loftus
looked out and saw the sheik's harem, in most radiant



232 WOMAN

costumes, approaching the tent in single file, led by the
sheik and a black eunuch. Thus the Arab hoped to appeal
to Occidental chivalry through the prayers of the masked
beauties who surrounded the tent, declaring they would
not raise the siege till the occupant yielded to their en-
treaties.

The rich Mohammedan ladies are far less industrious
than the poorer classes. Entering the harem at the tender
age of twelve to fourteen years, the young woman is con-
demned to a life of sloth and sensuality. There is little
opportunity for self-improvement or for enjoyments of a
high order. They eat, drink, gossip, suckle their young,
quarrel, plot, and eke out a miserable existence — always
under the control of their masters.

The country women have greater freedom and far more
influence with their husbands than do the women of the
harem. Polygamy among the former class is rare, and
hence the women are more highly regarded than those of
the city. The peasant woman is industrious, engaged in
some useful employment about the house or in the field.
She buys and sells and gets gain for her husband and her
home, and often is highly esteemed by him; but he will
not let you know it, if he can avoid doing so. In public
he always assumes the attitude of superiority. If but one
can ride, it is the man and the children who sit upon the
beast; the woman walks along at the side, carrying a
bundle on her head or a baby at her breast — sometimes
jogging along with both. If Arab and wife must both walk
with burdens, the man carries the lighter load. And the
woman must prepare the meal at the journey's end, while
her lord reposes — and smokes. Excavators in the East
have frequently found Arab girls who desired work, and
with their baskets they would for hours carry out the
earth with endurance apparently equal to that of the men.



THE WOMEN OF ARABIA 233

The Arab girls, as a rule, grow up in ignorance. It is
not thought worth while to educate the daughter; and,
indeed, it is regarded by many as destructive of the best
order of society to give woman any opportunity which
may cause her to desire to usurp the power which heaven
has placed in the hands of men. There is, accordingly,
little enlightened housekeeping, little to stimulate a
woman's mind, little opportunity here for "the hand that
rocks the cradle " to move the world. Sons grow up with
little respect for their mothers, for there is nothing to
make it otherwise. The husband, should he wish to di-
vorce himself from his wife, simply orders her to leave his
house, and his will is law. Civil government takes no
cognizance of matrimonial affairs, and religious authority
allows the husband to do much as he may see fit in his
own house.

The women of the Arabs, like the men, are fond of
tattooing their bodies, regarding the figures they stamp
into their flesh as highly ornamental, though perhaps
originally there was a religious significance in them. The
figure to be imprinted is first drawn upon a block of wood
and blackened with charcoal. This is then impressed
upon some part of the body, and then the outlines are
pricked with fine needles which have been dipped into an
ink made of gunpowder and ox-gall. The whole is sub-
sequently bathed with wine, and the figure is marked
indelibly.

Even the poor are very fond of personal ornaments.
Chains, rings, necklaces, gold thread, may be seen in
abundance, if not in costliness. It is not unusual for an
Arab woman, though clothed in tattered raiment, to wear
several rings of silver. But if this metal be beyond her
means, then of iron or copper and sometimes of glass.
Ornaments of variously colored glass are very popular



2 34 WOMAN

among Arab women; often they can afford no other.
Even bracelets are made of this material, and are much
worn. Some of the nomadic tribes still wear anklets.

The women of the desert are often seen with nose-
drops, or rings in one or the other side of their nostrils,
which in consequence tends to droop like the ear. This
custom prevails in other parts of the East, more particu-
larly among those whose occupation is thought to call for
much ornamentation, such as the dancing girls and oda-
lisques. The ancient Hebrews sometimes used to put
rings in swines' snouts for practical reasons, as indeed the
Arabs do to-day in the noses of horses, mules, and asses
to aid in evaporating the moisture from the nostrils, but
the beauty or the utility of a ring in an Arab woman's
nose has never been satisfactorily determined.

The Arab women of good quality do not, as a rule, wear
their hair very long. It usually reaches about to the neck,
and is tied with a colored ribbon. Many of the poorer and
less cleanly among them, however, wear their tresses
long, ill-kempt, and filthy. The men often think more of
their beards than do the women of their locks.

The favorite flower is that of the shrub called Al-
henna. It is the plant from which is obtained a dye much
used by Oriental ladies upon their skin and nails as a
cosmetic. The manner of preparation is thus described:
" The young leaves of the shrub are boiled in water, then
dried in the sun, and reduced to a powder which is of a
dark orange color. After this has been mixed with warm
water, it is applied to the skin." The use of henna is
very old; and when the woman has finished the work of
art — she herself being the subject — she looks, as one has
said, like a vampire stained with the blood of its vic-
tim. The flower of Alhenna, however, is beautiful and
strongly fragrant — reminding one in appearance of clusters



THE WOMEN OF ARABIA 235

of many-colored grapes. These blossoms are used as orna-
ments for the hair and as decorations for the houses, the
fragrance often conquering the malodorous atmosphere of
many ill-kept, uncleanly homes.

As is the custom with Oriental ladies generally, the
women in riding place themselves astride the beast, like a
man, and seldom present a graceful appearance to a West-
ern eye. Loftus has thus described an Arab lady as she
sits astride the patient mule: "Enveloped in the ample
folds of a blue cotton cloak, her face (as required by the
strict injunctions of the Koran) concealed under a black or
white mask, her feet encased in wide yellow boots, and
these in turn thrust into slippers of the same color, her
knees nearly on the level with her chin, and her hands
holding on to the scanty mane of the mule — an Eastern
lady is the most uncouth and inelegant form imaginable."

Moham.medans are never seen walking with their wives
in the street, and are seldom seen in company with them
or any other woman in any public place. Should a man
and his wife have occasion to go to any place at the same
time, he goes in advance and she follows on behind him.
Jessup, in Vie Women of the Arabs, gives the following
explanation advanced by a Syrian of the aversion which
the men feel with reference to walking in public with
women:

"You Franks can walk with your wives in public, be-
cause their faces are unveiled, and it is known that they
are your wives, but our women are so closely veiled that
if I should walk with my wife in the street, no one would
know whether I was walking with my own wife or another
man's. You cannot expect a respectable man to put him-
self in such an embarrassing position."

If inquiries are made by one man of another concerning his
family, the boys and the beasts are invariably mentioned



2 36 WOAUN

first; the wife last of all. Among the ancient Arabs the
birth of a female infant was looked upon as little short
of a domestic calamity and sometimes the infant was not
allowed to live. The horrible custom, wad-el-benat, of bury-
ing infant daughters alive grew out of an unwillingness of
parents to share the scant support of the home with the new-
comer, or, as has been suggested, from ferocious pride, or
false sentiments of honor, fearing the shame that might
come should the girl be carried off and dishonored by the
enemies of their tribe. The birth of a son, however, was
considered the occasion of great rejoicing. The daughters of
the modern Arabs are usually well cared for, though appar-
ently with little affection. They are useful in agricultural
pursuits, and they are for sale as wives when they become
of a marriageable age. Their marketable value is deter-
mined by their rank, their fortune, or their beauty. Among
the Arabs marriage is seldom an affair of the heart, but is
purely a commercial transaction. Three thousand piastres,
or about one hundred and twenty dollars, is regarded as a
good price to pay for a wife. The price is generally less.
The father of the young man pays the bill; his wealth
regulating somewhat the amount paid. The parents of
the young couple make all the arrangements, though gen-
erally assisted by relatives and interested friends. Much
bargaining and delay are often gone through with as a
matter of course. If the whole sum finally agreed upon
cannot be paid in a lump sum, the parties of the first
and the second part fix upon the size and frequency of
the instalments; the bride being claimed only when the
last instalment has been paid.

The time for the wedding is next settled upon, whether
it be days, weeks, months, or years in advance. When
that event is at length celebrated, the Arab love of feasting
has full opportunity to give itself rein. Days are spent in



THE WOMEN OF ARABIA 237

these rounds of pleasure before the young couple settle
down to the stern facts of practical copartnership.

The Arab women have a number of folk songs which
are sung by them at weddings and at the birth of children.
Some of these may be here quoted as revealing the Arab
woman's idea of physical grace and of womanly virtue,
and of those qualities which are desirable in the wife and


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