Page images

The famous Black Stone, * Hajar al-Aswad, is built into the south-east corner of the Ka'aba, near the door, and forms a part of the sharp angle of the building; it is four or five feet above the ground. It is an irregular oval, about seven inches in diameter, with an undulating surface, composed of about a dozen smaller stones of different sizes and shapes, well joined together with a small quantity of cement, and perfectly well smoothed; it looks as if the whole had been broken into many pieces by a violent blow and then united again. It is very difficult to determine accurately the quality of this stone, which has been worn to its present surface by the millions of touches and kisses it has received. Its colour is now a deep reddish brown, approaching to black. It has a border of a brownish colour, which is made, apparently, of pitch and gravel, and is two or three inches broad; both the border and the stone itself are encircled by a silver band. It is said to have fallen from Paradise to earth with Adam, and to have been miraculously preserved during the deluge, and given to Abraham by Gabriel when he built the Ka'aba.

When a pilgrim has arrived near Mecca, he removes his ordinary clothes and puts on a woollen tunic about his loins, and a woollen shawl about his shoulders, and very loose slippers. He then goes round the Ka'aba seven times, and each time he passez he must either kiss the Black Stone or touch it; he must next pass seven times between the low hills Şafâ and Merwâ, partly running and partly walking, in memory of Hagar's hurried steps as she wandered up and down seeking water for Ishmael; he must next go to Mount 'Arafat, † near Mecca, and pray

* A view of this stone is given in Sir William Muir's Life of Mahomet, p. 27.

† Or the “ Holy Hill,” or the “Hill of recognition.” The legend about it runs thus :—When our first parents forfeited heaven by eating of wheat, which deprived them of their primeval purity, they were

there and listen to a discourse until sunset; and the day following he must go to the valley of Mûna and cast seven stones at each of certain marks. This last act is the “ stoning of the Devil,”* and is done in imitation of Abraham, who cast stones at the great Enemy because he tempted or disturbed him in his prayer when preparing to offer up his son Isaac. When the stoning is done the pilgrims slay animals in the valley of Mûna, and make a great feast, and give gifts to the poor, and when they have shaved their heads and pared their nails the pilgrimage is considered to have been performed. The various ceremonies of the pilgrimage described above are extremely ancient, and are admitted by the Muḥammadans to be the product of the "time of ignorance"; at one epoch each had a special signification, which may or may not have been understood by the Prophet. He, though wishing to do so, had no power to abolish them, but he certainly succeeded in depriving them of meaning, and now these rites have no signification whatever.

The Ķur'ân prohibits the drinking of wine and all intoxicating liquors in these words :-"O true believers, surely wine, and lots, and images, and divining arrows are an abomination of the work of Satan ; therefore avoid ye them, that ye may prosper”; and again, “They will ask thee concerning wine and lots : Answer, in both there is great sin, and also some things of use unto men; but their sinsulness is greater than their use." Strict Muhammadans abjure the use of opium and ḥashish, or Indian hemp (cannabis Indica), which when taken in excess practically makes a man mad,* and they are bidden to avoid all gaming and gambling, and divination and magic. Tobacco is used freely everywhere, and of course coffee, but many learned Muḥammadans have doubted the legality of the use of either of these. When not corrupted by intercourse with Western peoples, the Muḥammadans are probably the most abstemious people in the East. The duties of a man to his neighbour are laid down at length by Muhammadan teachers, and in great detail, and we may see from the Ķur'ân that the observance of most of the virtues beloved by Western nations is also strictly inculcated by them.

cast down upon earth. The serpent descended at Ispahân, the peacock at Kâbûl, Satan at Bilbês, Eve upon ‘Arafat, and Adam in Ceylon. Adam wandered about for many years seeking for a wife, and when he arrived at 'Arafat, Eve, who was continually crying out for him by name, recognized him, and their “recognition gave the place the name of 'Arafât.

* The Shếtân al-Kabir is a block of rude masonry measuring about 8 feet high by 2 feet broad ; the seven pebbles thrown must first be washed in seven waters.

In the matter of Polygamy and Divorce, however, their morality is exceedingly lax, and there is no doubt that the domestic habits of the Arab nations have seriously hampered their progress among the peoples of the earth. Muḥammad said, “If ye fear that ye shall not act with equity towards orphans of the female sex), take in marriage of such (other) women as please you, two, or three, or four," (Sûra IV); but the example which he himself set was an unfortunate one, and has been the cause of much misery to the Arabs. Among poor folk want of means is the great deterrent to polygamy, and many men, therefore, marry only one wife ; but the laws relating to divorce are so loose, that a man with money can generally find or buy an excuse for getting rid of his wife and for taking a new one. The children of concubines or slaves are held to be legitimate, and the Prophet did a good deed when he put a stop to the inhuman custom among the pagan Arabs of burying their daughters alive. It is said that the girl who was intended to die was allowed to live until she was six years old, when she was perfumed and dressed in fine raiment, and taken to a pit dug for that purpose; the father then stood behind her, and pushed her in, and had the pit filled up at once.

* In 1898 over ten tons were seized by the coast-guard at or near Alexandria, and in 1899 about 900 persons were fined for selling the drug, and the dens kept by 310 persons were closed. In 1903 about 18,000 kilos were seized by the Authorities, and in 1904 about 21,369 kilos. The price of the drug is at the present time about 55 francs per kilo. The chief effect of the campaign against the use of the drug is to raise its price !

The punishment for Murder is death, but it may, if all parties concerned agree, be compounded by the payment of money, and by the freeing of a Muhammadan from captivity; Manslaughter may be compounded by a fine and by the freeing of a Muhammadan from captivity. Theft, if the object stolen be worth more than £2, is punished by the loss of a member :—for the first offence, the right hand; for the second, the left foot; for the third, the left hand; for the fourth, the right foot. In recent years beating and hard labour have taken the place of the punishment of mutilation. Adultery is punished by death by stoning if the charge against the woman be established by four eye-witnesses; the extreme penalty of the law is, naturally, carried out but rarely. Drunkenness is punished by flogging. Blasphemy of God, or Christ, or Muhammad, is ordered to be punished by death ; the same punishment has been inflicted upon women for Apostasy.

The Festivals of the Muhammadans are thus classified by Mr. Lane (op. cit., vol. II, p. 145, ff.) :

1. Lelat 'Ashûra. To the first ten days of the month Muharram, which is the first month of the Muhammadan year, special importance is attached, and great rejoicing takes place in them ; but of all days the tenth is the most honoured. Water which has been blessed is sold freely as a charm against the evil eye, and the Jinn are supposed to visit men and women by night during this period of ten days. On the tenth day of Muharram the meeting between Acian and Eve took place after they had been cast out of

Paradise ; on this day Noah left the ark, and the Prophet's grandson, Al-Husên, was slain at the battle of Kerbela. The pagan Arabs fasted on this day, and many Muḥammadans follow their example, and it is unlucky to make a marriage contract in this month.

2. About the end of the second month (Şafar), the return of the Mecca Caravan (the “Mahmâl)” is celebrated. When the main body of the Caravan is yet some days' journey distant, two Arabs, mounted on swift dromedaries, hurry on to the Citadel at Cairo to announce the day of its arrival. Many pious people go as much as a three days' journey to meet the Caravan, and carry with them gifts of raiment and food for the pilgrims, and donkeys on which certain of them may ride. When the Caravan arrives it is greeted with shouts of joy and music in honour of those who have returned, and weeping and wailing for those who have left their bones on the way. It is considered a most meritorious thing for a man or woman to die when making the “Hagg"* or Pilgrimage to Mecca, and many sick folk make arrangements to set out on the road to Mecca, full well knowing that they will die on the road. Some years ago, when the Indian Pilgrims, who sailed from Bombay, were not so well looked after as they are now, the number of those who died on the ships and were buried at sea was considerable. The pilgrims bring back, as gifts for their friends, holy water from the Sacred Well of Zamzam, from which Hagar gave Ishmael water to drink, pieces of the covering of the Ka'ba, which is renewed yearly, cakes of dust from the Prophet's tomb, frankincense, palm fibres for washing the body, combs and rosaries of the wood of aloes, tooth sticks and eye paint. A prominent object in the Caravan is the Maḥmil, to which great reverence is paid. It is a square framework of wood with a pyramidal top ; on the top, and

* Thus pronounced in Egypt.

« PreviousContinue »