Observations on the Mussulmauns of India
By Meer Hassan Ali

Presented by

Public Domain Books

Letter XXV

Mussulmaun Devotees.–The Chillubdhaars.–Peculiar mode of worship.–Propitiatory offerings.–Supposed to be invulnerable to fire.–The Maadhaars or Duffelees.–Character of the founder.–Pilgrimage to his tomb.–Females afflicted on visiting it.–Effects attributed to the violation of the sanctuary by a foreigner.–Superstition of the Natives.–Anecdote of Sheikh Suddoo and the Genii.–The way of the world exemplified, a Khaunie (Hindoostaunie fable).–Moral fable.–The King who longed for fruit...Page 370

There are many classes of men amongst the Mussulmauns, who either abjure the world or seem to do so, independent of those denominated Durweish;– such us the religions mendicants, &c., who have no earthly calling, and derive their subsistence from the free-will offerings of their neighbours, or the bounty of the rich, who from respect for their humble calling, and a hope of benefit from their prayers, or rather from the veneration of Mussulmauns towards such of their faith as have renounced the world for the service of God.

The Chillubdhaars[1] are a well-known class of wanderers; their founder was a Syaad, Ahmud Kaabeer,[2] of whom many wonderful things are related sufficient to impress on the weak mind a belief in his supernatural ascendancy. His presumed powers are said to have been chiefly instrumental in curing the sick or in removing temporal afflictions; but his effectual prayers in behalf of people in difficulty, they say, surpassed those of any other of the whole tribes of devotees that have at any age existed. His admirers and followers speak of him as having been invulnerable to fire. In his lifetime he had forty disciples or pupils constantly with him; at his death these forty separated, each in the course of time accumulating his forty pupils, after the pattern of their founder, who also eventually became leaders, and so on, until at the present time, it is conjectured, there are few places in Asia exempt from one or more detachments of these Chillubdhaar practical beggars who are much admired by the weak; and although they profess the same tenets and rules of life with their founder, Syaad Ahmud Kaabeer, yet, I believe, no one gives the Chillubdhaars of the present period credit for possessing either the virtues or the power of that man who set them so many bright examples; nevertheless, they are applied to on emergencies by the ignorant and the credulous of the present day, courted by the weak, and tolerated by all.

They all practise one plan whenever called upon to remove the difficulty of any person who places sufficient confidence in their ability. On such occasions, a young heifer, two years old, is supplied by the person having a request to make, after which a fire of charcoal is made in an open space of ground, and the animal sacrificed according to Mussulmaun form. The tender pieces of meat are selected, spitted, and roasted over the fire, of which when cooked, all present are requested to partake. Whilst the meat is roasting, the Chillubdhaars beat time with a small tambourine to a song or dirge expressive of their love and respect to the memory of the departed saint, their founder and patron, and a hymn of praise to the Creator.

The feast concluded, whilst the fire of charcoal retains a lively heat, these devotees commence dancing, still beating their tambourines and calling out with an audible voice, ’There is but one God!–Mahumud is the Prophet of God!’ Then they sing in praise of Ali, the descendants of the Prophet, and, lastly, of Syaad Ahmud Kaabeer their beloved saint. Each then puts his naked foot in the fire: some even throw themselves upon it,–their associates taking care to catch them before they are well down,–others jump into the fire and out again instantly; lastly, the whole assembly trample and kick the remaining embers about, whilst a spark remains to be quenched by this means.[3] These efforts, it is pretended, are sufficient to remove the difficulties of the persons supplying the heifer and the charcoal.

These mendicants live on public favour and contributions; they wear clothes, are deemed harmless, never ask alms, but are always willing to accept them, and have no laws of celibacy, as is the case with some wandering beggars in India, who are naked except the wrapper; sometimes they settle, making fresh converts, but many wander from city to city, always finding people disposed to administer to their necessities. They are distinguished from other sects, by each individual carrying a small tambourine, and wearing clothing of a deep buff colour.

There are another set of wandering mendicants, who are called Madhaar[4] beggars, or the Duffelees,[5] by reason of the small hand-drum they carry with them. These are the disciples of the sainted Maadhaar, whose tomb is visited annually by little short of a million of people, men, women, and children, at a place called Muckunpore, about twenty koss from Cawnpore.

Maadhaar was esteemed in his lifetime a most perfect Durweish, and his admirers speak of the power he then possessed as still existing; in that his pure spirit at stated periods hovers near his last earthly remains, where the common people make a sort of pilgrimage to entreat his influence in their behalf. A mayllah[6] (fair) is the consequence of this annual pilgrimage, which continues, I think, seventeen days in succession, and brings together, from many miles distant, the men of business, the weak-minded, and the faithful devotees of every class in the Upper Provinces.

From the respect paid to the memory of Maadhaar, and the expected influence of his spirit at the shrine, the ignorant people bring their sons to receive the saint’s blessing on their tender years. The man of business also presents himself before it, desirous to insure a share of success at the fair, and ultimate prosperity at home. The devotee visits the shrine from a desire to increase in true wisdom by the reflected light of the Maadhaar Durweish’s purer spirit. Women having made vows to visit the shrine, come to fulfil it at this period, if their hopes be realized in the birth of a son; and others to entreat his influence that their daughters may be suitably married; in short, all who assemble at this mayllah have some prayer to offer, or acknowledgments to make, for they depend on the abundant power and influence of the saint’s spirit to supply their several wants or desires.

At the shrine of this saint, a descendant, or as is suspected often in such cases, a pretended relative, takes his station to collect, with all the appearance of sanctity and humility, the nuzzas offered at the shrine of Maadhaar. The amount so collected is enormous, if credit be given to the reports in circulation; for all visitors are expected to present an offering, and most of the pilgrims do it for conscience sake. I knew a Mussulmaun who went from curiosity to this mayllah; he was accosted rather rudely as he was quitting the tomb, without leaving a nuzza; he told the guardian of the tomb he had presented the best nuzza he possessed, in a prayer for the soul of the departed; (as commanded every Mussulmaun should offer when drawing near the tomb of one of his own faith).

I have conversed with a remarkably devout person, on the numerous extraordinary stories related of Maadhaar’s life, and the subsequent influence of his tomb. He told me that women can never, with safety to themselves, enter the mausoleum containing his ashes; they are immediately seized with violent pains as if their whole body was immersed in flames of fire. I spoke rather doubtingly on this subject, upon which he assured me that he had known instances of one or two women who had imprudently defied the danger, and intruded within the mausoleum, when their agony was extreme, and their sufferings for a long time protracted, although they eventually recovered.

Another still more remarkable circumstance has been related to me by the Natives, for the truth of which I cannot venture to vouch, although I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the narrators.

’A party of foreigners, encamped near the fair, wished to see what was going on at this far-famed mayllah, and for the purpose of gratifying their curiosity, halted on a certain day in the vicinity of the Durgah, when the place was much thronged by the various pilgrims to that shrine. The party dined in their tent, but drank more wine than was consistent with propriety, and one was particularly overcome. When they sallied forth, at the close of the day, to visit this saint’s tomb, their approach was observed by the keepers, who observing how very unfit the strangers appeared to enter the sanctuary of other men’s devotions,–the hallowed ground that was by them respected,–the head-keeper very civilly advanced as they moved towards the entrance, requesting that they would desist from entering in their apparent condition, contrary to the rules of the place and people. The convivial party then drew back, without contesting the point, excepting the one most disguised in liquor, who asserted his right to enter wherever and whenever he thought good, nor would he be controlled by any man in India.

’The keepers spoke very mildly to the tipsy foreigner, and would have persuaded him he was doing wrong, but he was not in a state to listen to any argument dissuading him from his determined purpose; they warned him that a severe punishment must follow his daring, as he pushed past them and reeled into the mausoleum, triumphing at his success. He had approached the tomb, when he was immediately seized with trembling, and sank senseless on the floor; his friends without, observing his situation, advanced and were assisted by the keepers in removing the apparently inanimate body to the open air: water was procured, and after considerable delay, returning symptoms of life were discovered. When able to speak, he declared himself to be on the eve of death, and in a few short hours he breathed his last.’ The unhappy man may have died of apoplexy.

The ignorant part of the population of Hindoostaun hold a superstitious belief in the occasional visitations of the spirit of Sheikh Suddoo.[7] It is very common to hear the vulgar people say if any one of their friends is afflicted with melancholy, hypochondria, &c., ’Ay, it is the spirit of Sheikh Suddoo has possessed him.’ In such cases the spirit is to be dislodged from the afflicted person by sweetmeats, to be distributed among the poor; to which is added, if possible, the sacrifice of a black goat. I am not quite sure that the night blindness, with which the lower orders of Natives are frequently attacked, has not some superstitious allusion attached to it; but the only remedy I have ever heard prescribed for it is, that the patient should procure the liver of a young kid, which must be grilled over the fire, and eaten by the afflicted person. The story of this Sheikh Suddoo, which is often related in the zeenahnahs of the Mussulmauns, is as follows:–

’Sheikh Suddoo was a very learned man, but a great hypocrite, who passed days and nights in the mosque, and was fed by the charitable, his neighbours, from such viands as they provided daily for the poor traveller, and those men who forsake the world. The Sheikh sometimes wandered into a forest seldom penetrated by the foot of man, where, on a certain day, he discovered a copper cup, curiously engraved with characters which he tried in vain with all his learning to decipher. The Sheikh returned with the cup to the mosque, regretting that the characters were unknown to him; but as he had long desired to have a good-sized lamp, he fancied from the peculiar shape of his prize, that it would answer the very purpose, and the same night he exultingly prepared his charaagh[8] (a light) in the engraved vessel.

’The moment he had ignited one wick, he was surprised by the appearance of a figure, resembling a human being, standing before him, “Who art thou," he demanded, “intruding at this hour on the privacy of a hermit?"–"I come”, replied the figure, “on the summons from your lamp. That vessel, and whoever possesses it, has four attendants, one of whom you see before you, your slave. We are Genii, and can only be summoned by the lighting up of the vessel now before you; the number of your slaves will be in due attendance, always guided by as many wicks as it may be your pleasure to light up for our summons. Demand our attendance, at any hour you please, we are bound to obey.”

’The Sheikh inquired if he or his companions possessed any power. “Power”, replied the Genii, “belongs to God alone, the Creator of all things visible and invisible; but by His permission we are enabled to perform, to a certain extent, any reasonable service our master requires.”

’The Sheikh soon put their abilities to the test, and satisfied himself that these agents would aid and assist him in raising his character with the world (for he coveted their praise), “They would”, he thought, “assuredly believe he was a pious Durweish, when he could convince them by a ready compliance with their requests, which must seem to follow his prayers, and which he should be able to further now by the aid of the Genii.”

’The pretended holy man employed his attendant Genii fully; many of his demands on their services were difficult, and too often revolting to them; yet whilst he retained the lamp in his possession, they were bound to obey his commands. He once heard of a king’s daughter, who was young and beautiful; he therewith summoned the Genii, and required that they should convey the princess to him. They reluctantly obeyed his command, and the princess was the Sheikh’s unwilling companion in the mosque. On another occasion, he desired the Genii to bring without delay, to the ground in front of his present abiding place, a very curious mosque situated many leagues distant, the stones of which were so nicely cemented together, that no trace of the joining could be discovered. The Genii received this command with regret, but they were obliged to obey, and departed from the Sheikh’s presence to execute his unworthy orders.

’It happened that the mosque which the Sheikh coveted was the retreat of a righteous man, who had separated from the world to serve his God, venerable in years and devout in his duties. The Genii commenced their labour of removing the mosque; the good man who was at his devotions within, fancied an earthquake was shaking the building to its foundation, but as he trusted in God for preservation, he breathed a fervent prayer as he remained prostrate before Him.

’The shaking of the mosque continued, and he was inspired by a sudden thought that induced him to believe some supernatural agency was employed against the holy house; he therefore called out, “Who and what are ye, who thus sacrilegiously disturb the house of God!” The Genii appeared, and made known to what order of beings they belonged, whose servants they were, and the purpose of their mission.

’"Begone this instant!” replied the pious man, with a tone of authority that deprived them of strength: “a moment’s delay, and I will pray that you be consumed by fire! Know ye not that this is a mosque, holy, and erected wherein to do service to the great and only God? Would Sheikh Suddoo add to his enormities by forcing the house of God from its foundation? Away, ye servants of the wicked Sheikh, or meet the fire that awaits you by a moment’s further delay!”

’The Genii fled in haste to their profane employer, whose rage was unbounded at their disobedience, as he termed their return without the mosque; he raved, stormed, and reviled his slaves in bitter sarcasms, when they, heartily tired of the Sheikh’s servitude, caught up the copper vessel, and, in his struggle to resist the Genii, he was thrown with violence on the ground, when his wicked soul was suddenly separated from his most impure body.’

This story receives many alterations and additions, agreeable to the talent and the inclination of the person relating it in Native society; but as there once was a person on whose history it has been founded, they do not denominate it fabulous or khaunie.[9] The following, which I am about to copy from a translation of my husband’s, is really a mere fable; and, however trifling and childish it may appear, I feel bound to insert it, as one among those things which serves to illustrate the character of the people I have undertaken to describe; merely adding, that all these fables prove an unceasing entertainment in the zeenahnah, with females who cannot themselves read, either for amusement or instruction:–

’A certain man was travelling on horseback through an immense forest; and when he came to a particular spot, he observed fire consuming some bushes, in the centre of which was a monstrous large snake. The Snake was in danger of being destroyed by the flames, so he called to the Traveller, in a voice of despair–"Oh! good Sahib, save me, or I perish!"[10]

’The Traveller was a very tender-hearted creature, prone to pity the painful sufferings of every living creature, whether man or animal; and therefore began to devise some scheme for liberating the Snake from the devouring flames. His horse’s corn bag, which was made of leather, hung dangling by a rope from the crupper; this, he thought, would be the best thing he could offer to the distressed Snake. Accordingly, holding fast by the rope, he threw the bag towards the flames, and desired the Snake to hasten into it, who immediately accepted the offered aid, and the Traveller drew him out of his perilous situation.

’No sooner was the Snake released from danger, than, ungrateful for the services he had received from the Traveller, he sprang towards him, with the purpose of wounding his deliverer. This, however, he failed to accomplish, for the Traveller drew back in time to escape the attack; and demanded of his enemy his reasons for such base ingratitude, saying–"Have I not saved your life by my prompt assistance? What a worthless reptile art thou! Is this thy mode of rewarding benefits?"–"Oh!” said the Snake, “I am only imitating the way of the world; who ever thinks of returning good for good? No, no! every benefit received by the creature of this world is rewarded to the donor by an ungrateful return. I tell you, good Traveller, I am only following the example set me in the way of the world.”

’"I shall not take your word for it,” said the Traveller in reply; “but if I can be convinced that what you say is true, you shall be welcome to bite me."–"Agreed,” said the Snake; and off they set together in search of adventures.

’The first object they met was a large Pepul-tree[11] whose branches spread out an inviting shelter to the weary traveller to repose under, without rent or tax. The Pepul-tree was asked, “Whether it was consistent with the way of the world for the Snake to try to wound the man who had preserved him from destruction.”

’The Pepul-tree replied, “To follow in the way of the world, I should say the Snake was justified. A good return is never now-a-days tendered for a benefit received by mere worldlings, as I can bear witness by my own sufferings. Listen to my complaint:–Here in this solitary jungle, where neither hut nor mansion is to be found, I spread forth my well-clothed branches,–a welcome shelter to the passing traveller from the burning heat of the noontide sun, or the deluge poured out from the over-charged cloud;–-under my cover they cook their meal, and my falling leaves supply them with fuel, as also with a bed on which they may recline their weary limbs. Think you, when they have thus profited by the good I have done them, that they are grateful for my services?–Oh, no! the ingrates despoil the symmetry of my form, break off my branches with violence, and trudge off triumphantly with the spoil which may serve them for fuel for cooking at their next stage. So you see the Snake is right; he has but followed the way of the world.”

’The Snake exultingly led the way in search of other proofs by which he should be justified. They fell in with a man who was by occupation a camel-driver. The Man being made acquainted with the point at issue, desired to be heard, as he could prove by his own tale that the Snake’s ingratitude was a true picture of the way of the world:–"I was the sole proprietor of a very fine strong camel, by whose labour I earned a handsome competence for each day’s provision of myself and family, in conveying goods and sometimes travellers from place to place, as my good fortune served me. On a certain day, returning home through an intricate wood, I drew near to a poor blind man who was seated on the ground lamenting his hard fate. Hearing my camel’s feet advance, he redoubled his cries of distress, calling loudly for help and assistance. His piteous cries won upon the tender feelings of my heart; so I drew near to inquire into his situation, he told me with tears and sobs, that he was travelling on foot from his home to visit his relations at the next town; that he had been attacked by robbers, his property taken from him by violence, and that the boy, his guide, was forced from him by the banditti as a slave; and here, added the blind man, must I perish, for I can neither see my way home, nor search for food; in this lone place my friends will never think to seek me, and my body will be the feast for jackals ere the morning dawns.

’"The poor man’s story made so deep an impression on my mind, that I resolved on assisting him; accordingly my camel was made to kneel down, I seated the blind man safely on my beast, and set off with him to the city he called his home. Arrived at the city gates, I lowered my camel, and offered to assist the poor man in descending from his seat; but, to my astonishment, he commenced abusing me for my barefaced wickedness, collected a mob around us, by his cries for help from his persecutor, declared himself the master of the camel, and accused me of attempting to rob him now as I had done his brother before.

’"So plausible was his speech–so apparently innocent and just his demands–that the whole collected populace believed I was actually attempting to defraud the blind man of his property, and treated me in consequence with great severity. I demanded to be taken before the Kauzy of the city. ’Yes yes,’ said the blind man, ’we will have you before the Kauzy’; and away we went, accompanied by the crowd who had espoused the blind man’s cause against me.

’"The blind man preferred his claim, and advocated his own cause with so many arguments of apparent justice, that I was not allowed a voice in the business; and in the end I was sentenced to be thrust out of the city as a thief and vagabond, with a threat of still greater punishment if I dared to return. Here ends my sad tale; and you may judge for yourself, oh, Traveller! how truly the Snake has proved to you that he follows but the way of the world!”


’As they pursued their way in search of further conviction, they met a Fox, whose wisdom and sagacity was consulted on the important question. Having heard the whole history with becoming gravity, the Fox addressed the Traveller:–"You can have no good reason to suppose, Mr. Traveller, that in your case there should be any deviation from the general rule. I have often been obliged to suffer the vilest returns from friends whom I have been active to oblige; but I am rather curious to see the way you effected the release of the Snake from the fire, for I will candidly confess myself so stupid as not clearly to understand the description you have both attempted to give. I shall judge the merits of the case better if I see it performed.”

’To this proposal the Snake and Traveller agreed: and when the corn bag was thrown towards the Snake, he crept into it as before. The Fox then called out to the Traveller “Draw quickly!” he did so, and the Snake was caught by a noose in the cord which the Fox had contrived unperceived, by which the Snake was secured fast round the middle. “Now,” said the Fox, “bruise your enemy, and thus relieve the world of one base inhabitant!"’[12]

This fable is frequently enlarged and embellished by the reciter to a considerable extent, by introducing many different objects animate and inanimate, to elucidate the question before the Fox arrives, who is generally brought in to moral the fable.

I trust to be excused for transcribing the following moral fable which was translated from the Persian by my husband for my amusement, bearing the title of ’The King who longed for an unknown fruit:’–

’A certain King was so great a tyrant, that his servants and subjects dreaded each burst of anger, as it were the prelude to their own annihilation. The exercise of his will was as absolute as his power; he had only to command, and obedience followed, however difficult or inconvenient to the people who served under him.

’This tyrant dreamed one night that he was eating fruit of an extraordinary flavour and quality. He had never in his whole life seen fruit of the kind, neither had he heard such described by travellers; yet when he ruminated on the subject in the morning he was resolved to have fruit of the same sort his dream presented, or his people should suffer for his disappointment.

’The King related his dream, and with it his commands to his Vizier, his courtiers, and attendants, that fruit of the same description should be brought before him within seven days; in default of which he vowed solemnly that death should be the portion of his Vizier, his courtiers, and servants. They all knew the King meant to be obeyed, by the earnestness of his manner, and they trembled under the weight of his perplexing orders; each, therefore, was speedily engaged in the all-important search. The whole empire was canvassed, and all the business of the Court was suspended to satisfy the whim of the Monarch, without avail; terror and dismay marked the countenance of the whole city–for certain death awaited these servants of the Court–and there was but now one day left to their hopes. The city, the suburbs, the provinces, had been searched; disappointment followed from every quarter, and the threatened party gave up their hearts to despair.

’A certain Durweish, knowing the consternation of the people, and feeling pity for their unmerited sufferings, sent for the Vizier privately. “I am not”, said the Durweish, “by any means anxious to please the vanity and silly wishes of your master, the King, but I do hear with pity the state of despair you and your fellows are reduced to, by the unsuccessful results of your search after the fruit, and the certain consequences which are to follow your failure.”

’Then giving the Vizier a fragment of a broken pitcher, on which was ciphered unknown characters, he told him to take it with him to a certain tomb, situated in the suburbs of the royal city, (directing him to the spot with great exactness), and casting the fragment on the tomb, to follow the directions he would there receive; he further desired him to be secret, to go alone, and at midnight.

’The now hope-inspired Vizier went as desired at midnight, and cast the fragment on the tomb, which instantly opened to him. He then descended a flight of steps, from the foot of which, at a little distance, he first espied a light not larger than a taper, but which increased as he went on until the full splendour of noonday succeeded. Proceeding with confidence, revived hope cheered his heart, anticipating that by success so many lives besides his own would be preserved through his humble endeavours; and that life would be more than doubly dear, as the prospect of losing the gift had embittered the last few days so severely.

’The Vizier passed on courageously through halls, corridors, and apartments of magnificent structure, decorated and furnished in the most perfect style of elegant neatness. Everything he saw bore marks of splendour. The King’s palace was then remembered in all its costliness, to be as much inferior to the present scene as could be detected by the lapidary’s correct eye, when comparing the diamond with the pebble.

’He was perfectly entranced as he gazed on the emerald gate, through which he had to pass to enter a garden of luxuriant beauty, where every shrub, plant, flower, and fruit teemed with richness. In the centre of a walk an old man was seated in a chair of burnished gold, clad in the costume of the country, who seemed to be engaged in breathing the sweet odours by which he was surrounded with a calm and tranquil countenance of joy. “I know your business,” said the possessor of this paradise, to the Vizier as he advanced towards him; “you are come to obtain fruit from this tree, which bows its branches to the earth with the weight and number of its burden. Take one only; this is the fruit your master’s dream pictured to his fancy.”

’Full of joy at the prospect of release from the dreaded anger of his royal master, the Vizier hastily plucked the fruit, and retreated by the way he came, without waiting to inquire what the old man meant by an exclamation he uttered at parting, which at the time seemed of lesser import than he afterwards imagined; but “Alas, the world” was recalled to his memory on his way back to the palace, and haunted his mind so strongly that he became restless and uneasy, even after the King had conferred honours and favours innumerable on him for his successful efforts in procuring that fruit which had never before been seen by any creature on earth but by the King, and by him only in a dream. “Alas, the world!” was like a dark envelope over every attempt to be cheerful; an impenetrable cloud seemed to pervade the Vizier’s mind; he could think of nothing but the parting words of the old man, and his own folly in not inquiring his meaning.

’The Vizier at last went to the same Durweish who had befriended him in his hour of need, and related to him the obstacle to his enjoyment of the blessings and honours which had crowned his success, and hoped from this holy-minded man to ascertain the meaning of that perplexing sentence, “Alas, the world!” The Durweish could not, or would not explain the old man’s meaning; but willing to do the Vizier all possible service, he proposed giving him again the necessary passport to the inhabitant of the garden.

’The fragment of a pitcher was again traced with the mystic characters, and with this in his hand the Vizier at midnight sought the tomb, where he found as easy access as on the former occasion. Everything he saw seemed doubly beautiful to his imagination since his former visit. He entered by the emerald gate and found the old man enjoying the magnificent and sense-devouring scene, with as much delight as mortals are wont to show when content fills the heart of man.

’"I know your second errand, my friend,” said the old man, “and am quite as willing to oblige you as on your first visit. Know then, Vizier, that whilst an inhabitant of earth, I followed the humble occupation of a village barber; by shaving and paring nails I earned my daily bread, and maintained my family. Sometimes I collected ten pice in my day of labour from house to house, and if twelve crowned my efforts I was fortunate.

’"Many years passed over my head in this way, when one day I was less successful in my calling, and but half my usual earnings was all I had gained. On my way home I was ruminating on the scantiness of the meal likely to be procured by five pice for my family of seven people; the season was one of such great scarcity, that ten pice on other days had been of late barely sufficient to procure our daily food; and even with twelve we thought our wants had been but inadequately supplied. I went on grieving,–more for my family than myself, it is true,–and could have cried at the thought of the small portion of bread and dhall I should see allotted to each individual dependant on me.

’"In my progress towards home, whilst regretting my poverty, I saw an unfortunate beggar, whose earnest entreaty seemed to make no impression on those who passed him by; for, in truth, when money is scarce and corn dear, people’s hearts grow somewhat cold to the distresses of those who have no claim by kindred ties. But with me it was otherways: my scantiness seemed to make me more tender to the sorrows of my fellow-creatures. Poor soul, said I to myself, thou art starving, and no one gives ear to thy complaints; now if I take home this scanty produce of my day’s labour, it will not give a meal to all my household; besides, they dined with me tolerably well yesterday. We shall not starve by one day’s fasting; to-morrow Divine Providence may send me in the way of more bearded men than I have met to-day. I am resolved this poor man shall have the benefit of a good meal for once, which he supplicates for in the name of God.

’"I then went to the beggar and threw the five pice into his upheld wrapper. ’There, brother,’ said I, ’it is all I have; go, make yourself happy in a good meal, and remember me in your prayers.’ ’May Heaven give you plenty in this world and bless your soul in the next!’ was his only response. That prayer was heard, for during my further sojourn on earth abundance crowned my board; and here, it is unnecessary to remark on the bounties by which you perceive I am surrounded.

’"That I said Alas, the world! was from the reflection that I did but one act of real charity whilst I remained in it, and see what an abundance rewards me here. Had I known how such things are rewarded hereafter, I should have been more careful to have embraced the passing opportunities, while I walked with my fellow-man on earth. That I said, Alas, the world! to you, was an intended admonition to mankind; to convince them of the blessings bestowed in this world of bliss eternal, in reward for every proper use to which the benefits they received in their probationary state of existence may have been devoted. Go, friend! and profit by the example I present of heavenly rewards! Persevere in a course of practical charity in that world you still inhabit; and secure, whilst you may, the blessed rewards of eternity!"’

[1] This term does not appear in the ordinary dictionaries or Census
    reports. Sir C. Lyall, with much probability, suggests that the
    correct form is Chalapdar, ’a cymbal player’.

[2] A saint, Sayyid Ahmad Kabir, is buried at Bijaimandil, Delhi.
    T.W. Beale, Oriental Biographical Dictionary, s.v.
[3] Fire-walking is practised by many Musalman devotees. In a case
    recorded on the NW. frontier, a fakir and other persons walked
    through a fire-trench and showed no signs of injury; others came out
    with blistered feet and were jeered at as unorthodox Musalmans; a
    young Sikh, shouting his Sikh battle-cry, performed the feat, and as
    he escaped uninjured, a riot was with difficulty prevented.–T.L.
    Pennell, Among the Wild Tribes of the Afghan Frontier, 1909, p. 37,
    See M.L. Dames, ’Ordeals by Fire in the Punjab’ (Journal
    Anthropological Society, Bombay, vol. iv). The subject is fully
    discussed by Sir J. Frazer, The Golden Bough[3], part vii, vol. ii,
    1913, pp. 5 ff.

[4] Madari fakirs, who take their names from Badi-ud-din Madar
    Shah, a disciple of Shaikh Muhammad Taifuri Bastami, who
    died A.D. 1434 at the ago of 124 years, and is buried at Makanpur in
    the Cawnpur District, where an annual fair is held at his tomb. On the
    anniversary of his death food is offered here, and amulets
    (baddhi) are hung round the necks of children. Some light a
    charcoal fire, sprinkle ground sandalwood on it, and jumping into it,
    tread out the embers with their feet, shouting out dam Madar, ’by
    the breath of Madar!’ the phrase being regarded as a charm against
    snake-bite and scorpion stings. After the fire-walk the feet of the
    performers are washed and are found to be uninjured. Others vow a
    black cow, sacrifice it, and distribute the meat to beggars. The rite
    is of Hindu origin, and Hindus believe that the saint is an
    incarnation of their god Lakshmana.–Jaffur Sharreef, Qanoon-e-Islam,
    158 f.: W. Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the NW. P. and Oudh, iii.
    397 ff.

[5] Dafali, from daf, a drum.

[6] Mela.

[7] Shaikh Saddu is the special saint of women. His name was
    Muhi-ud-din, and he lived at Amroha or Sambhal, in the United
    Provinces of Agra and Oudh. Some unorthodox Musalmans offer food in
    the name, and hold a session, in which a female devotee becomes
    possessed. A woman who wants a child says to her: ’Lady! I offer my
    life to you that I may have a child’, whereupon the devotee gives her
    betel which she has chewed, or sweets, and this is supposed to bring
    about the desired result (Jaffur Shurreef, Qanoon-e-Islam, 184 f: W.
    Crooke, Popular Religion and Folklore of Northern India, i. 204). In
    Bihar it is said that he had a lamp with four wicks, on lighting
    which, four Jinns appeared, and he used them for the purpose of
    debauchery. Finally, another Jinn slew him. People become possessed in
    his name, and when summoned in cases of illness or trouble, announce
    that a goat or a cock must be sacrificed to the saint (Census Report,
    Bengal, 1901, i. 180).

[8] Chiragh, an earthenware cup in which a wick is lighted.

[9] Kahani, a folk-tale.

[10] This tale comes from the Nala-Damayanti Saga. Nala finds a snake
    in danger of death from a jungle fire, saves it, and is bitten by the
    reptile, in the forehead, which causes him to become weak, deformed,
    and black in colour. The snake turns out to be the King Snake,
    Karkotaka. He says to Nala: ’I gave you this bite for your good, as
    you will soon learn, in order that your deformity may conceal you in
    carrying out your plans’ (C.H. Tawney, Katha-saral-Sagara, i.
    564 f.: C.H. Bompas, Folklore of the Santal Parganas, 149 ff.).

[11] Pipal, Ficus religiosa.

[12] A common Indian folk-tale. In one of the most common versions the
    jackal tricks the ungrateful tiger, and induces him to go back to his


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

[Buy at Amazon]
Observations on the Mussulmauns of India (Large Print Edition)
By Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali
At Amazon