Observations on the Mussulmauns of India
By Meer Hassan Ali

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Letter IX

The Hadje (Pilgrimage to Mecca).–Commanded to be performed by Mahumud.–Eagerness of both sexes to visit the Prophet’s tomb.–Qualifications requisite for the undertaking.–Different routes from India to Mecca.–Duties of the pilgrims at the Holy House.–Mecca and its environs.–Place of Abraham.–The Bedouins.–Anecdote of a devotee and two pilgrims.–A Bedouin Arab, and the travellers to Mecca.–The Kaabah (Holy House).–Superstitious regard to a chain suspended there.–Account of the gold water-spout.–Tax levied on pilgrims visiting the tomb of Mahumud by the Sheruff of Mecca.–Sacred visit to the tombs of Ali, Hasan, and Hosein.–The importance attached to this duty.–Travellers annoyed by the Arabs.–An instance recorded.–The Nudghiff Usheruff.–Anecdotes of Syaad Harshim.

’The Pilgrimage to Mecca’ is commanded by Mahumud to his followers at least once during their lifetime, provided the obstacles are not insurmountable. Indulgences are made for the sick, or individual poverty. All who have the means at command, whatever may be their distance from the place, are expected to perform the Hadje themselves if possible; or, if prevented by any circumstances they cannot control, they are required to pay the expenses of other persons willing to be their proxies.

Whatever information I have acquired on the subject of this pilgrimage has been gleaned from frequent conversations with Meer Hadjee Shaah, who, as I have before remarked, performed the Hadje from Hindoostaun to Mecca, at three different periods of his eventful life.

If the fatigues, privations, and difficulties of the pilgrimage to Mecca be considered, the distance from Hindoostaun must indeed render the Hadje a formidable undertaking; yet, the piously disposed of both sexes yearn for the opportunity of fulfilling the injunctions of their Lawgiver, and at the same time, gratifying their laudable feelings of sympathy and curiosity–their sympathy, as regards the religious veneration for the place and its purposes; their curiosity, to witness with their own eyes those places rendered sacred by the words of the Khoraun in one instance, and also for the deposits contained in the several tombs of prophets, whom they have been taught to reverence and respect as the servants of God.

Every year may be witnessed in India the Mussulmauns of both sexes forming themselves into Kauflaahs[1] (parties of pilgrims) to pursue their march on this joyous expedition, believing, as they do, that they are fulfilling a sacred duty. The number of women is comparatively few, and those chiefly from the middling and lower classes of the people, whose expenses are generally paid by the rich females. The great obstacle to the higher classes performing the pilgrimage themselves is, that the person must at times be necessarily exposed to the view of the males. The lower orders are less scrupulous in this respect, who, whilst on the pilgrimage, wear a hooded cloak[2] of white calico, by which the person is tolerably well secreted, so that the aged and youthful have but one appearance; the better sort of people, however, cannot reconcile themselves to go abroad, unless they could be permitted to have their covered conveyances, which in this case is impossible.

The qualifications necessary for all to possess, ere they can be deemed fit subjects for the Hadje, are, as I learn, the following:

’They must be true Mussulmauns in their faith; that is, believe in one only true God, and that Mahumud is His Prophet.

’They must strictly obey the duties commanded by Mahumud; that is, prayer five times daily, the fast of Rumzaun, &c.

’They must be free from the world; that is, all their debts must be paid, and their family so well provided for, according to their station, that no one dependent on them may be in want of the necessaries of life during the absence of the pilgrim from his home and country.

’They must abstain from all fermented or intoxicating liquors, and also from all things forbidden to be eaten by the law (which is strictly on the Mosaic principle).

’They must freely forgive their enemies; and if they have given any one cause of offence, they must humble themselves, and seek to be forgiven.

’They must repent of every evil they have committed, either in thought, word, or deed, against God or their neighbour.’

Thus prepared, the pious Mussulmaun sets out on his supposed duty, with faith in its efficacy, and reliance on the goodness of Divine Providence to prosper him in the arduous undertaking.

Many Kauflaahs from the Upper Provinces of India, travel overland to Bombay; others make Calcutta their place of embarkation, in the Arab ships, which visit those ports annually with returning pilgrims from Arabia, cargoes of coffee, Arabian fruits, and drugs. Some few enterprising people make the whole pilgrimage by land; this is, however, attended with so many and severe difficulties, that but few of the present day have courage to attempt it. In those cases their road would be from Delhie to Cashmire, through Buckaria,[3] making a wide circuit to get into Persia. This is the most tedious route, but possesses the advantages of more inhabited places on the line of march, and therefore provisions are the more readily procured. There is one route from the Lahore Province,–the English territory here is bounded by the river Suttledge, which the traveller crosses into the Sikh country,–through Afghastaan and Persia. I have not heard of the Kauflaahs making this their road of late; there seems to be always a disposition to fear the Sikhs,[4] who are become a powerful nation under Runjeet Singh; but I am not aware what ground the pilgrims have for their distrust, except that they can scarcely expect the same courtesy from these people as from the Mussulmauns, who would naturally aid and assist the pilgrims, and respect the persons thus labouring to accomplish the command of their Prophet.

Whatever may be the chosen route, the pilgrims must make up their minds to many trials necessarily incident to the undertaking; and to the habits of the Mussulmauns of India, I cannot suppose any fatigue or trial greater than the voyage by sea, in an Arab vessel. It is well for those persons whose hearts have undergone that thorough change, which by the law fits them for the Hadje; with such men, earthly calamities, privations, or any other mere mortal annoyances, are met with pious fortitude, having consolations within which strengthen the outward man: in all their trials they will say, ’It is in the road of God, by Him cometh our reward’.

The duty of the pilgrims, on their arrival at the Holy Place, is to worship God, and visit the tombs of the Prophets. There are forms and regulations to be observed in the manner of worship; certain circuits to be made round the Kaabah; saluting with the lips the sacred stone therein deposited; and calling to remembrance the past wonders of God, with reverence and piety of heart. I have often heard Meer Hadjee Shaah speak of the comfort a humble-minded pilgrim enjoys at the time he is making his visit to the Holy House; he says, ’There the heart of the faithful servant of God is enlightened and comforted; but the wicked finds no rest near Kaabah’.

The pilgrims visit the tombs of every prophet of their faith within their reach; as the mausoleum of Hasan and Hosein, the Nudghiff Usheruff of Ali, and, if it be possible, Jerusalem also. At Dimishk (Damascus) they pay respect to the burying-place of Yieyah[5] (St. John), over whose earthly remains is erected, they say, the Jumna Musjud[6] (mosque), to which the faithful resort on Fridays (their Sabbath) to prayer.

Within the confines of the Holy House, life is held so sacred that not the meanest living thing is allowed to be destroyed; and if even by accident the smallest insect is killed, the person who has caused the death is obliged to offer in atonement, at the appointed place for sacrificing to God, sheep or goats according to his means.[7]

According to the description of Meer Hadjee Shaah the city of Mecca is situated in the midst of a partially barren country; but at the spot called Taaif,[8]–only one day’s journey from Mecca,–the soil is particularly fertile, producing all kinds of fruit and vegetables in great abundance, and the air remarkably pure and healthy. The word Taaif implies in the Arabic ’the circuits completed’. It is recorded ’that the angel Gabriel brought this productive soil, by God’s command, and placed it at a convenient distance from Mecca, in order that the pilgrims and sojourners at the Holy House might be benefited by the produce of the earth, without having them sufficiently near to call off their attention from the solemn duty of worshipping their God, which they are expressly called upon to perform at Mecca’.

My informant tells me that there is a stone at Mecca known by the appellation of ’Ibraahim Mukhaun’ (Place of Abraham):[9] on this is seen the mark of a human foot, and believed by pilgrims, on good authority, to be the very stone on which Abraham rested his foot when making occasional visits to his son Ishmael: at the performance of this duty he never dismounted from his camel, in compliance with his sacred promise made to Sarah the mother of Isaac.

The pilgrimage to Mecca is most securely performed by those persons who travel in a humble way; riches are sure to attract the cupidity of the Bedouins. A poor pilgrim they respect, and with him they will share their last meal or coin. The Bedouin Arab delights in hospitably entertaining men of his own faith, provided they are really distressed; but the consequence of deception would be a severe visitation on the delinquent. The two following stories I have received from Meer Hadjee Shaah, descriptive of some of the incidents that occur to pilgrims, and therefore may be acceptable here.

’A good Mussulmaun of Hindoostaun resolved on undertaking the Hadje, being under the strong impression of a warning dream that his earthly career would speedily terminate. He travelled on foot, with one companion only, who was a faithfully-attached friend; they had no worldly wealth, and journeyed on their way as mendicants, trusting for each day’s food to the bountiful care of Divine Providence: nor was their trust in vain, since the hearts of all who saw these pious travellers were moved by the power of God to yield them present relief.

’On a certain day these pilgrims had journeyed from the dawn until eve without a meal, or meeting any one to assist them, when they were at last encountered by a religious devotee of another nation, with whom they conversed for some time. Their new acquaintance having found they were indeed poor, not even possessed of a single coin to purchase corn or food of any kind, expressed his hearty sympathy, and desired to be of service to the pilgrims; he therefore disclosed to them that he was in possession of a secret for the transmutation of metals,[10] and offered some of his prepared powder to the elder Hadjee, by which he would have persuaded him want should never again intrude; adding, “You will with this be independent of all future care about subsistence on your pilgrimage.”

’The pious Hadjee, however, was of a different mind from the devotee, and politely rejected the offer of the powder by which he was to acquire riches, declaring that the possession of such an article would rob him of the best treasure he enjoyed, namely, the most perfect reliance on Him, by whom the birds of the air are fed from day to day without labour or care, and who had hitherto fed him both in the city and in the desert; and that in this trust he had comforts and consolations which the whole world could not grant him: “My God, in whom I trust, will never desert me whilst I rely on Him alone for succour and support."’

My excellent friend says, such pilgrims as the one described may pass through the haunts of the Bedouins without fear or sorrow, and they are always respected. The next anecdote I am about to relate will develop more particularly the Arab’s natural disposition, and how necessary it is for men really to be that they would seem, when placed by circumstances within their reach. Some of the parties were known to my venerable relative.

’Six Mussulmauns from India were travelling on foot in Arabia; they assumed the title of pilgrim mendicants. On a certain day they drew nigh to the tent of a Bedouin Arab, who went out to meet them, and entering into conversation, soon discovered by their talk that they were poor pilgrims from India, who depended on casual bounties from men of their faith for their daily meal. The Bedouin, though a robber, had respect for the commands of his religion; and with that respect he boasted a due share of hospitable feeling towards all who were of his own faith; he accordingly told them they were welcome to his home, and the best meal he could provide for them, which offers they very gladly accepted, and followed him to the tent.

’The Arab desired his wife to take water to his guests and wash their feet after the fatigue of their day’s march, and told her in secret to divert their attention whilst he went out in search of plunder, that the hospitality of an Arab might be shown to the strangers. Then mounting his fleet-camel, he was quickly out of sight. Many a weary circuit the Arab made, his ill stars prevailed; not a Kauflaah nor a traveller could he meet, whence a supply might be extracted, to be the means of providing for his guests; his home was penniless, and with the Bedouins, none give credit. His bad success dispirited him, and he returned to the back of his tent, to consult what was best to be done in this emergency. The only thing he possessed in the world fit for food was the animal on which he rode, from day to day, to levy contributions upon the passing traveller.

’His only immediate resource was to kill his favourite camel. His honour was at stake; the sacrifice would be great; he was attached to the beast; the loss would be irreparable, he thought:–yet every weighty argument on one side to preserve the camel’s life, was as quickly overturned in the reflection of his Arabian honour;–his visitors must be fed, and this was the only way he could contrive the meal. With trembling hands and half-averted eyes, the camel’s blood was shed; with one plunge his favourite ceased to breathe. For some minutes, the Arab could not look on his poor faithful servant; but pride drove pity from her haunt, and the animal was quickly skinned and dressed in savoury dishes, with his wife’s assistance. At length, the food prepared, the Arab and his wife placed the most choice portions before their guests, and whilst they dined attended them with respectful assiduity; selecting for each the most delicate pieces, to induce the travellers to eat, and evince the cordial welcome tendered by the host.[11]

’The travellers having dined; the Arab and his wife took their turn at the feast with appetites most keen,–forgetful even, for the time, whence the savoury dishes were procured; and if an intruding thought of his favourite camel shot across the mind of the Arab, it was quickly chased in the reflection that his prided honour was secured by the sacrifice, and that reflection was to him a sufficient compensation.

’The pilgrims, refreshed by food, were not inclined to depart, and as they were urged to stay by their friendly host, they slept comfortably in the Arab’s tent, on coarse mats, the only bed known to the wandering Bedouins. The morning found them preparing to pursue their march; but the Arab pressed their continuance another day, to share with him in the abundance his camel afforded for the whole of the party. The travellers were not unwilling to delay their departure, for they had journeyed many days without much ease, and with very little food; their host’s conversation also was amusing, and this second day of hospitality by the Arab was an addition to the comfort and convenience of the weary pilgrims.

’The following morning, as was fixed, the travellers rose to take leave of their benevolent host and his attentive wife; each as he embraced the Arab, had some grateful word to add, for the good they had received at his hands. The last of the pilgrims, having embraced the Arab, was walking from the tent, when the dog belonging to the host seized the man by his garment and held him fast. “What is this?” inquired the Arab, “surely you must have deceived me; my dog is wise as he is trusty,–he never yet lied to his master. This labaadhar of yours he has taken a fancy to it seems; but you shall have my coat of better-looking stuff for your old chintz garment. We will exchange labaadhars,[12] my friend,” said the Arab, throwing his own towards the hesitating traveller. His fellow-pilgrims, hearing altercation, advanced, and with surprise listened to the parley going on between the host and guest.–"I have a veneration for my chintz, old as it is,” said the pilgrim; “it has been my companion for many years, brother; indeed I cannot part with it.” The dog held fast the garment, and the Arab, finding persuasion was but loss of words, cast a frown of deep meaning on the travellers, and addressed them:–"Ye came to me beggars, hungry and fatigued; I believed ye were poor, and I sheltered ye these two days, and fed ye with my best; nay, more, I even killed my useful camel, that your hunger might be appeased. Had I known there was money with any of ye, my poor beast’s life might yet have been spared; but it is too late to repent the sacrifice I made to serve you,” Then, looking steadfastly at the chintz-robed traveller, he added, in a tone of sharp authority, “Come, change garments!–here, no one disputes my commands!”

’The trembling pilgrim reluctantly obeyed. The Arab took up the garment and proceeded with it to where the fire was kindled. “Now we shall see what my trusty dog discovered in your tattered chintz,” said the Arab, as he threw it on the fire. All the pilgrims hovered round the flames to watch what would result from the consuming garment, with intense anxiety. The Arab drew from the embers one hundred gold mohurs, to the surprise and wonder of all the travellers, save him who owned the chintz garment; he had kept his treasures so secretly, that even in their greatest distress he allowed his brother pilgrims to suffer, with himself, want and privations which, owing to his lust for gold, he had no heart to relieve.

’The Arab selected from the prize he had obtained, by the exchange of garments, ten gold mohurs, and presented them to the owner with a sharp rebuke for his duplicity, alluding to the meanness he had been guilty of in seeking and accepting a meal from a Bedouin, whilst he possessed so much wealth about his person; then adding,–"There is nothing hidden from God; I killed my sole treasure to give food to the poor hungry travellers; my deed of charity is rewarded; deceit in you is punished by the loss of that wealth you deserved not to possess.–Depart, and be thankful that your life is spared; there are some of my tribe who would not have permitted you to go so easily: you have enough spared to you for your journey; in future, avoid base deceptions."’

Of the Kaabah (Holy House) many wonderful things are recorded in the several commentaries on the Khoraun, and other ancient authorities, which it would fill my letter to detail. I will, however, make mention of the mystic chain as a sample of the many superstitious habits of that age.

It is said, ’A chain was suspended from the roof of Kaabah, whither the people assembled to settle (by the touch) disputed rights in any case of doubt between contending parties.’

Many curious things are related as having been decided by this mystic chain,[13] which it should seem, by their description, could only be reached by the just person in the cause to be decided, since, however long the arm of the faulty person, he could never reach the chain; and however short the person’s arm who was in the right, he always touched the chain without difficulty. I will here relate one of the anecdotes on this subject.

’Two pilgrims travelled together in Arabia; on the way one robbed the other of his gold coins, and secreted them carefully in the hollow of his cane or staff. His companion missing his cash, accused him of the theft, and when disputes had risen high between them, they agreed to visit the mystic chain to settle their difference. Arriving at Kaabah, their intentions being disclosed to the keepers of the place, the thief claimed the privilege, being the accused, of first reaching to touch the chain; he then gave the staff in which he had deposited the money into his fellow-pilgrim’s hands, saying, “Keep this, whilst I go to prove my innocence.” He next advanced and made the usual prayer, adding to which, “Lord, whatever I have done amiss I strive to remedy; I repent, and I restore"; then raising his arm, he touched the chain without difficulty. The spectators were much surprised, because all believed he was actually the thief. The man who lost his gold, freely forgave his fellow-traveller, and expressed sorrow that he had accused him wrongfully; yet he wished to prove that he was not guilty of falsehood–having really lost his gold,–and declared he also would approach the chain to clear himself from such a suspicion. “Here,” said he to the criminal, “take back your staff;" and he advanced within the Kaabah, making the required prayer, and adding, “Now my Creator will grant me mercy and favour, for He knoweth my gold was stolen, and I have not spoken falsely in that, yet I know not who is the thief.” He raised his hand and grasped the chain, at which the people were much amazed.’

It is presumed, by writers of a later period, that this circumstance threw the mystic properties of the chain out of favour; for it was soon after removed secretly, these writers add, and its disappearance made the subject of much conjecture; no one could ever ascertain by whom it was taken, but the general belief is, that it was conveyed away by supernatural agency. Another marvellous story is recorded of the Kaabah, as follows:

’A poor pilgrim, nearly famishing with hunger, while encircling the Holy House, on looking up towards the building observed the water-spout of gold[14] hanging over his head. He prayed that his wants might be relieved, adding, “To Thee, O God, nothing is difficult. At thy command, that spout of gold may descend to my relief;” holding the skirt of his garment to receive it, in answer to his faithful address. The spout had been firmly fixed for ages, yet it fell as the pilgrim finished his prayer. He lost no time in walking away with his valuable gift, and offered it to a merchant for sale, who immediately recognizing the gold spout of Kaabah, accused the pilgrim of sacrilege, and without delay handed him over to the Sheruff[15] of Mecca, to answer for his crime. He declared his innocence to the Sheruff, and told him how he became possessed of the treasure. The Sheruff had some difficulty in believing his confession, yet perceiving he had not the appearance of a common thief, he told him, if what he had declared was true, the goodness of God would again be extended towards him on the trial he proposed to institute. The spout was restored to its original position on the Kaabah, and made secure. This done, the pilgrim was required to repeat his faithful address to God, in the presence of the assembled multitude; when, to their astonishment, it again descended at the instant his prayer was finished. Taking up the spout without hesitation, he was walking away with it very quietly, when the people flocked round him, believing him to be some sainted person, and earnestly requested him to bestow on them small portions of his raiment as relics of his holy person. The Sheruff then clothed him in rich garments, and in lieu of the gold spout–which none could now dispute his right to,–the same weight of gold in the current coin of Arabia was given to him, thus raising him from beggary to affluence.’

I have often heard Meer Hadjee Shaah speak of this gold spout which adorns the Kaabah, being held in great veneration by the pilgrims who make the Hadje to that place.

All Mussulmauns performing the pilgrimage pay a kind of tax to the Sheruff of Mecca. The present possessors of power in Mecca are of the Soonie sect. The admission money, in consequence, falls heavy on the Sheahs, from whom they exact heavy sums, out of jealousy and prejudice. This renders it difficult for the poor Sheah pilgrim to gain admittance, and it is even suspected that in many cases they are induced to falsify themselves, when it is demanded of them what sect they belong to, rather than be denied entrance after their severe trial to reach the confines of Mecca. The tax levied on the Soonies is said to be trifling in proportion to that of the Sheahs.

Amongst the different places visited by each Hadjee,–after the circuit is made,–a zeearut to the tomb of Ali at Nudghiff Usheruff, and the far-famed Kraabaallah of Hasan and Hosein are esteemed indispensable engagements, if it be possible; there is not, however, any command to this effect in the Mussulmaun law, but the Sheahs, zealous for their leaders, are willing to think they do honour to their memory, by visiting those tombs which contain the mortal remains of their respected Emaums.

Travelling through this part of Arabia, Meer Hadjee Shaah says, is attended with much inconvenience and fatigue; but he failed not at each pilgrimage he made, to pay a visit to the mausoleums of his forefathers. He tells me that Kraabaallah was for a long time almost an interdicted visit, through the power of the Soonies, who were so jealous of the respect paid to the Emaums, that the Turks (who are Soonies) raised the price of admission within the gates to one hundred gold pieces. At that time very few people could gratify their yearnings beyond the outside view of the mausoleum; and even now that the entrance-money is much reduced the sums so collected yield a handsome revenue to the Turks.

I will here introduce an anecdote which proves the value certain individuals set on the zeearut (sacred visit) to Kraabaallah, which I have received from my revered pilgrim-friend and relative.

’Amongst the applicants for admission at the gates of Kraabaallah was an aged woman clothed in ragged garments. The gate-keeper, judging from her appearance, that she was destitute of money, scoffed at her presumption; she, however, produced the price of admission with much confidence of manner, and demanded entrance without further delay. The keepers now suspected the old woman to be a thief, and commenced interrogating her how she became possessed of so large a sum. The poor old woman answered them, “I have laboured hard for thirty years at my spinning-wheel, and have debarred myself during those years of all superfluities, contenting myself with a bare subsistence; I have done this that the dearest wish of my heart might once in my lifetime be gratified, to visit and weep over the tomb of my Emaums. Here, take the fruits of my labour, and let me have my reward; every moment delayed is agony to me."’

In journeying through Arabia, pilgrims are much annoyed with the intrusion they so frequently meet with from the idle Arabs, who force their way into every stranger’s place of sojourn without ceremony, to strain the nerves of charity from ’brethren of the faith’.

There is a maxim well known amongst Mussulmauns,–the words of Mahumud,–’With the faithful, all are brothers’; and this is the pass-word with those idle men who pretend to have too much pride to beg, and are yet too indolent to labour for their support.

A Mussulmaun,–however great his rank,–is seated with his friends and attendants; an Arab, who lives by this method, stalks into the tent or apartment, salutes the master with, ’Salaam-oon-ali Koom!’ (health or peace be with you!) and unbidden takes his seat on the nearest vacant spot to the head person of the assembly. After the first surprise excited by the stranger’s intrusion, he looks at the master and says, ’I claim the privilege of a brother’; by which it is to be understood the Arab requires money from the richer man of his faith. A small sum is tendered, he receives it without indicating any sense of obligation, rises from his seat, and moves off with no other than the familiar salute which marked his entrance, ’Salaam-oon-ali Koom!’[16]

A rich Eunuch, of Lucknow, accompanied Meer Hadjee Shaah on one of his pilgrimages, with a large Kauflaah. Upon one occasion, when the whole party were seated in friendly conclave, some of these idle Arabs entered in the way described; the Eunuch was unacquainted with the language, or the manners of Arabia, and expressed his dislike to their freedom in warm language, and evident anger in his countenance; many had claimed the tribute of brotherhood, when the Eunuch, who was accustomed in his own country to receive respect and deference from inferiors, lost all patience with the uncourtly intrusion of the Arabs, and evinced his wrath to the proud Arab then present, who understood by his violent manners, if not by his language, that he was offended with him. The good sense and kindly manner of Meer Hadjee Shaah restored tranquillity in the assembly; he gave money to the man, and apologized for his friend’s ignorance of the customs of Arabia: thus preventing the enraged Arab from fulfilling his threat of forcing the Eunuch to appear before the Sheruff of Mecca.

Nudghiff Usheruff, the burying-place of Ali, is the resort of many pious men of the Mussulmaun persuasion, as well as the shrine to be visited by ’the faithful’ of the Sheah sect. Amongst the many singular stories I have heard of the devout men of that religion, I select one from the number relating to a man whose abode was–through choice–near the shrine of their beloved Emaum Ali. I shall give it in exactly the style I have received it, through my husband’s translation, from an old work in the Persian language.

’In the reign of Nadir Shaah,[17] a devout man of the faith took up his abode in the vicinity of Nudghiff Usheruff in Arabia. He was a Syaad, named Harshim;[18] a man of great learning, whose heart was set on seeking with love the most merciful God, whom he served faithfully. Syaad Harshim, conscious that the riches and honours of this world are inadequate to procure eternal happiness, and feeling convinced that the more humble a man’s mode of living is, the greater are the prospects of escaping temptations in this life of probation, resolved on labouring for his daily bread, and relinquished with his paternal home, the abundance and riches which his ancient house had long boasted.

’Syaad Harshim selected Nudghiff Usheruff for his sojourn, and the business of a woodman for a calling. The piety of his life, and the goodness of his heart, drew upon him the respect of the inhabitants of the city. It was his practice to spend every day in the jungle (wilderness) cutting fire-wood, of which he gave a light burthen to his ass; and returning towards evening to the populated city, he found ready customers for the load which his day’s labour produced. His honesty and love of truth were proverbial: he asked the price for his wood which he intended to take; if more was offered, it was rejected,–if less, he would not accept it.

’One evening, a man of superior address to his usual customers, but poorly clad, met him at the entrance of the street, and bargained for the load of wood. Syaad Harshim was penetrating, and could not help expressing his surprise at the circumstance of one, evidently moving in a higher sphere, being there to purchase wood. “I see,” said the Syaad to the purchaser, “that your station is superior to your circumstances!–How is this?"–"My story,” replied the stranger, “is not, I fear, uncommon in this age of the world. I will relate it briefly:–I was once a rich man, and my mind was set on making the pilgrimage. Aware that valuables and money would be an incumbrance to me on my journey, I applied to the Kauzy of this city to take charge of all my worldly riches during my absence, to which he readily consented, and having packed my jewels, money, and valuables in a strong chest with a good lock, I gave it into his charge and departed.

’"My pilgrimage accomplished, and tired of a wandering life, I returned home after a few years’ absence, waited on the Kauzy, and applied for the treasure I had deposited in his care; he denied all knowledge of me or my valuables, pretended not to understand me, called me an impostor, and eventually drove me from his house with violence. I again tried the Kauzy by expostulation, and sent my friends to him, but all without benefit; for here I am as you see me, Syaad Harshim, reduced to penury by the Kauzy’s injustice. The world esteems him a person of great character, and condemns me as the unjust one. Well! I can say no more; I know that God is merciful, I put my trust in Him!” “Ameen,” responded the Syaad, “do you so, and it will yet be well with you.”

’The stranger lingered with the sympathizing Woodman, and after some time had elapsed he asked him if he would interest himself with the Kauzy to effect a restitution of his rights, adding, “All are willing to give you, O Syaad, great credit for superior virtues.” Harshim replied he had no merit to call for his fellow-mortals’ good opinion, but as he felt interested in the affair he would certainly visit the unjust man, and requested the stranger to meet him at the Kauzy’s door on the following morning.

’Arrived at the Kauzy’s residence, Harshim was received with evident pleasure, for though but a woodman, he yet was known to be a person of superior rank, and a man universally respected for his great piety. After the common salutations, the Syaad stated the object of his visit, assuring the Kauzy he was actuated purely by good feelings towards him in the part he had undertaken;–being desirous only of preserving his soul from the evil that attended the unjust men of this world, who die without repentance and restitution to those whom they have injured. Then calling the stranger forward, he said with firmness of voice and manner, “Behold this man! he left money and jewels in your charge whilst he went on his duty to the pilgrimage; he comes now to demand his property, give back his chest of treasures without delay, honestly and justly, as you hope for mercy in a future state!”

’The Kauzy answered, “I have it not, Syaad Harshim, you may believe me; this fellow wickedly raises the falsehood to injure me, and it is as much to his own dishonour as to my discredit. I beg, therefore, you will neither give credit to his base assertions, nor think so meanly of me; my station as Kauzy of this district should, methinks, screen me from such imputations."–"True,” said Harshim, “the station you occupy in the world, and the place you hold as Kauzy, prevent suspicion from attaching to you; hence this poor man has not yet found redress to the justice of his claims. I would have you believe me sincerely your friend, in desiring to bring your heart to repentance, and thus only can your soul’s safety be secured. I know you to have this man’s property, and your own heart even now convicts you of the injustice you practise. Nothing is hidden from God;–reflect on the punishment prepared for the unrepenting hypocrite. Listen, whilst I relate to you my own convictions, or rather experience, of that terrible punishment which is prepared for the impenitent hardened sinner beyond the grave.

’"I have been a woodman for several years, and by my daily labour have earned my coarse food. Some years since, I was sick and unable to pursue my usual occupation; my supply was thus cut off. Requiring temporary relief, I applied to a rich Banker of this city for a trifling loan; my request was promptly complied with, and I engaged to repay the sum by two pice each day upon again resuming my employment. By the mercy of God I recovered; and on the evening of each day, as I sold the wood my day’s labour produced in the market, I paid the Banker two pice. On the very day, however, that the last two were to have been paid, the Banker died. Thus I remained his debtor still. Often had I thought of the circumstance that I was his debtor, and with real regret; yet the sum was small, and with this I became reconciled.

’"Not long after his decease I was visited with a dream, important to all the world to know, and I therefore desire to make it public. Judgement was opened to my view; the beauty of heaven was displayed on one side, and the torments of hell on the other. My dream presented many people waiting their award, whom I had known in life, and amongst the number my creditor the Banker; he was standing on the brink of that fiery yawning gulf which is prepared for the wicked and unjust. His attendant angels produced the documents of their faithful keeping,–good and evil actions of every mortal are thus registered,–one exhibited a small blank book in which not one good deed had been recorded, and that presented by the other, containing the evils of his ways on earth, appeared to me an immense volume filled throughout.

’"’Take him to his merited torments!’ was pronounced in an awful tone of command.–’Have mercy! have pity!’ cried the Banker, in a supplicating voice.–’Produce one claim for pity,’ was heard.–The Banker in agony looked wildly round, as if in search of something he might urge in extenuation, when casting his eyes on me he exclaimed, ’There! oh, there is one! who when in trouble I relieved, and he is still my debtor!’

’"In my dream this appeared too slender a benefit to draw forth the slightest remission of the punishments awarded to his deserts. ’Away with him!’ was heard.–’Oh!’ cried the Banker’s soul, ’draw near to me, thou good, virtuous, and humble Woodman, that the reflected light of thy virtues may give one instant’s ease to my present torture. Let me but touch the righteous Harshim, and I will depart to my just punishment with submission!’

’"I was permitted to gratify the unhappy spirit, wondering at the same time what benefit he could derive from touching me. Advancing near the tortured soul he stretched forth his hand and touched me on the knee; it was like a firebrand; I drew back hastily and found my knee was scorched. ’Return to men with warnings,’ said the wretched spirit. ’Tell them of my unhappy state; tell them what are the tortures of the wicked; that touch you have received on your knee, is of the same nature my whole body suffers in eternal flames.’–The pain I suffered in my knee disordered my sleep; I awoke in agony, and here it is to this day,” said the Woodman, untying a bandage from his knee. “Examine the place, and be warned, O Kauzy, by the terrible certainty I have brought from that Banker whom you knew, and who is now suffering for his injustice on earth. I have been lame from that night of my dream,” continued Syaad Harshim, “but I shall rejoice in the pain, if the example influence one hardened sinner to repent, whilst repentance may avail.”

’During the recital of the dream, Syaad Harshim watched the countenance of the Kauzy, who tried in vain to hide the guilty changes of his face. The Syaad at last fixed his keen eyes on him, “Now, friend,” said he, “it would be great folly to add guilt to guilt by farther subterfuge. I know the day, the hour, you ingeniously substituted a false key to this man’s chest; I could tell you what you wickedly took out; the place where it is secreted, even, is not hidden from my knowledge; go, bring it from your wife’s apartment; a little labour will remove it from the corner near the bedstead.”

’The Kauzy was now subdued by the commanding truths of the Syaad, and his heart being softened by the fearful relation of the Banker’s torment, he sank to the earth with shame and remorse,–"I acknowledge my sin, thou holy man of truth;–forgive me!” he cried, “forgive me, oh my God! I am indeed repentant, and by this holy man’s means I am brought to a sense of my guilt!” He then went to the women’s apartment, brought out the chest and delivered it to the owner, entreating Syaad Harshim to forgive him.

’The Syaad replied, “I have nothing to forgive, nor power to remit; my advice you have freely, and may it serve you! Seek pardon from God who loves to be sought, and whose mercy never faileth. He is not the God of revenge, where repentance is sincere; but He is the God of mercy to all who seek Him faithfully. His mercy is already extended to you, for He has given you time to repent:–but for His mercy, you had been taken to your punishment, whilst you had no thoughts of repentance in your guilty heart. Farewell! let me know by your future life, that Syaad Harshim’s lost labour in the jungle of this day, has produced something to the better harvest–awakening one sinner to a sense of his danger."’

Meer Hadjee Shaah has related to me many singular anecdotes of this Syaad Harshim, which are generally spoken of, and believed to be true by the sojourners at Nudghiff Usheruff. His memory is much respected by the Mussulmauns, and the acts of his life are registered with the veneration paid to saints, amongst people of more enlightened nations. They confidently assert, that whenever Syaad Harshim presented himself at the entrance to Nudghiff Usheruff, the gates, which are always kept locked, flew open to receive him.

In proof that he disregarded worldly possessions, the following is related of him in the ancient works both of Arabia and Persia:–

’The great conqueror, Nadir Shaah, on one occasion visited the shrine of Ali, with a vast retinue of his chiefs, courtiers, and followers. The King heard, whilst at Nudghiff Usheruff, of the sainted life led by the Woodman, Syaad Harshim, in that neighbourhood, and he felt disposed to tender a present of money and valuables, to induce the Syaad’s prayer for his future prosperity. Accordingly, the King commanded trays to be filled from his Indian spoils, which were sent with a message, humbly couched, entreating the good Syaad would accept his offering of respect, and make prayers to God for him.

’The trays were conveyed by servants of the King, who arrived at the Syaad’s hut at the moment he was satisfying the demands of nature with a meal of coarse barley bread and pure water. “What is all this?” inquired the Syaad, on seeing the valuables before him. “An humble offering from the great Nadir Shaah,” replied the messenger, “who entreats you will honour him by the acceptance of his presents, and offer your pious prayer for God’s mercy in his behalf.” “My prayers”, said the Syaad, “I can promise shall be made duly and truly, but not my acceptance of his gifts. Take back these hateful, useless things! Tell Nadir Shaah, Syaad Harshim will not even touch them.” The messenger tried persuasions without avail; he was constrained to return to his royal master, with his loaded trays.

’No sooner were the King’s servants out of sight, than the wife of Syaad Harshim vented her disappointment in no measured strain of anger towards her husband. “Here am I,” said the old lady, “a very slave in consequence of our poverty, a very beggar in appearance, and my scanty meal of coarse bread is scarce sufficient to keep me in bodily strength; surely you ought to have remembered me, when the King’s offering was before you–even if you liked not to accept it for yourself."–"I might indeed”, he replied, “have done as you say, wife, had I known your sentiments sooner; but I believed you were as contented as myself with homely fare and honest labour; but be comforted, you shall have a share of the next offering made by the King to Syaad Harshim, provided your present inclination remains unchanged by time.” This promise quieted the wife’s angry humour, and peace was again restored between them.

’"Wife,” said the Syaad, “this al-kaulock[19] (Arab’s coat of calico) of mine requires a little of thy labour: as I have now no other garment to change with, I trust you may please to wash it whilst I take my sleep;–one caution you must observe,–I have occasion for the water in which this dress is to be washed; preserve it carefully for me, my good wife;” and he laid him down on his mat to sleep. The wife, obedient to her husband’s wishes, washed his dress, and took care to preserve the dirty water; when he awoke, she brought him the clean garment, and received his warm commendations for her diligence. She then produced the pan of dirty water, in which she had cleansed the garment, saying, “There, Syaad Harshim, I have done as you desired."–"Very good,” replied her husband, “now you must farther oblige me by drinking it–you know there is nothing in this water but the sweat of my body produced by my daily labour.” The wife, disgusted at the strange request of her husband, looked with amazement, and fancied he must have lost his senses. “What is this you require of me? would you poison your wife, O Syaad Harshim, with the filth from your skin, the accumulation of many days’ labour in the jungles? art thou mad, to ask thy wife a request so unheard of?”

’"Listen to me, wife,” said the Syaad, in gentle terms; “you profess to love, honour, and respect me, as your faithful, lawful husband; pray can the dirt from my body be more offensive to your palate than the scum of Nadir Shaah, whom you only know by name? You would have accepted the filthy offerings of a cruel man, who plundered and sacrificed his victims to obtain the treasures he possesses;–you would not have scrupled to obtain your future sustenance by the coins of Nadir Shaah, gained as they were by the spilling of human blood? Is this your love for Syaad Harshim?" The wife threw herself at her husband’s feet, when his speech was finished: “Pardon me, my dear husband! pardon my ignorance and self-love; I see myself disgraced by harbouring one wish for more than is gained by honest industry. No longer have I any desire for the gold of Nadir Shaah. Contented as yourself, my dear, good husband! I will continue to labour for the honest bread that sustains, nor ever again desire my condition to be changed."’

The Woodman, Syaad Harshim, lived to a great age; many a tear hath fallen on his grave from the good pilgrims visiting the shrine of Ali, near which he was buried; and his resting place is reverenced to this day by the passing traveller of his own faith.

[1] Kafilah.

[2] The burqa’: see drawing in Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, p. 95.

[3] Bokhara.

[4] The Origin of the Sikhs, by H. Colebrooke, Esq., gives a faithful
    picture of those warlike people. [The best account of their beliefs
    is by M. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, Oxford, 1909.]

[5]  Yahya. On the capture of Damascus by the Muhammadans, the
    churches were equally divided between the Christians and their
    conquerors. The great Cathedral of St. John was similarly divided,
    and for eighty years the two religions worshipped under the same
    roof.–Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, p. 50.

[6] A vulgar corruption of Jame’ Masjid, the Cathedral Mosque.

[7] On the taboos attached to the sanctuary, see Burton, Pilgrimage, i. 379 f.

[8] At-Ta’if, meaning ’circumambulation’. When Adam settled at Mecca,
    finding the country barren, he prayed to Allah to supply him with a
    piece of fertile land. Immediately a mountain appeared, which, having
    circumambulated the Ka’aba, settled itself down eastward of Mecca.
    Hence it was called Kita min Sham, ’a piece of Syria,’ whence it
    came. (Burton, ii. 336.) ’Its fertile lands produce the fruits of
    Syria in the midst of the Arabian desert’ ( Gibbon, Decline and Fall,
    vi. 255).

[9] At Mecca are ’evident signs, with the standing place of Abraham; and
    he who enters it is safe’ (Koran, iii. 90). On the north side of
    the Ka’aba, just by its door, is a slight hollow in the ground, lined
    with marble. The spot is called Mi’jan, and it is supposed to be the
    place where Abraham and Ishmael kneaded the chalk which they used in
    building the Ka’aba: the stone, with the mark of Abraham’s feet, is
    shown.–Burckhardt, quoted by Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, p. 337;
    Burton, ii. 311; Sale, Preliminary Discourse, p. 84.

[10] The Asiatics, generally, have faith in certain properties of chemical
    productions to alter the nature of the common to the precious metals.
    I have often witnessed the anxious exertions of Natives in India, who
    try all sorts of experiments in alchemy, expecting to succeed; but I
    have never known any other issue from the many laborious efforts of
    individuals than waste of time and property in these absurd schemes.

[11] One of the best-known versions of this famous tale is found in The
    Decameron of Boccaccio, Day 5, novel 9. It goes back to Buddhist
    times, and is told of Hatim Tai, the model of Oriental
    liberality. For numerous parallels, see A.C. Lee, The Decameron of
    Boccaccio, its Sources and Analogues, 1909, pp. 170 ff.

[12] Labada, ’a rain coat, wrapper’.

[13] This is probably some local tradition, of which no record appears in travellers’ accounts of the Ka’aba.

[14] On the north-west side of the Ka’aba is a water-spout, called
    Mi’zabu’r-Rahmah, ’the spout of Mercy’. It is made of gold, and was
    sent from Constantinople in A.D. 1573. It carries the rain-water from
    the roof, and discharges it on the grave of Ishmael.–Hughes,
    Dictionary of Islam, pp. 257, 337.

[15] The Sharif, ’honourable,’ is the local ruler of Mecca and the
    Hajaz: see Encyclopaedia Britannica, xvii. 952; Burton,
    Pilgrimage, ii. 3.

[16] As-Salamu-’alai-kum, ’Peace be with you!’

[17] Nadir Shah, born a shepherd, A.D. 1687, aided Shah Tahmasp
    against Ashraf, leader of the Afghans, defeated him, and restored
    his master in 1730. Afterwards he deposed Tahmasp, and raised his
    infant son to the throne of Persia, under the title of ’Abbas III.
    But he continued to rule the country, and on the death of ’Abbas in
    1736 he became king. He marched on India in 1739, defeated the Emperor
    Muhammad on the historic field of Panipat, sacked Delhi, and
    perpetrated a horrible massacre. He returned to Persia laden with
    spoil, but his tyranny excited the hostility of the nobles, and he was
    assassinated in 1747, and buried at Mashhad.

[18] Sayyid Hashim.

[19] Alkhalaq, Turkish, ’a coat with sleeves’.


Introductory Notes  •  Preface to the Second Edition  •  Introduction  •  Introductory Letter  •  Letter I  •  Letter II  •  Letter III  •  Letter IV  •  Letter V  •  Letter VI  •  Letter VII  •  Letter VIII  •  Letter IX  •  Letter X  •  Letter XI  •  Letter XII  •  Letter XIII  •  Letter XIV  •  Letter XV  •  Letter XVI  •  Letter XVII  •  Letter XVIII  •  Letter XIX  •  Letter XX  •  Letter XXI  •  Letter XXII  •  Letter XXIII  •  Letter XXIV  •  Letter XXV  •  Letter XXVI  •  Letter XXVII  •  Bibliography of Works

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