Moors in Spain - M. Florian

The Present Condition of Mohammedanism

The present Condition of Mohammedanism.—In Turkey.—The Doctrines believed there.—Their Forms of Devotion.—Lustrations.—Prayer.—Mohammedan Sabbath.—Fast of Ramadan.—Meccan Pilgrimage.—Proselytism.—Mohammedan Hierarchy.—Islamism in Tartary.—In Hindustan. In China.—In Persia.—In Africa.—In the Indian Archipelago.—The Sooffees.—The Wahabees.

The present condition of the Mohammedan faith, with some account of the standing it maintains in the world, will not be deemed an inappropriate subject for the closing pages of this volume. Its votaries have long ceased to spread alarm through the nations by their victorious and devastating progress; the fire of its fanaticism is almost extinct; nevertheless, its doctrines prevail over a number of mankind almost equal to any other system of false religion; they are professed in nations and countries remote from each other, and having no other mutual resemblance than that involved in their common superstition. In Spain, indeed, Christianity has triumphed over Islamism; and in the inhospitable regions of Siberia, a part of the ancient Tartary, its advance has been somewhat checked; but in middle and lower Asia, and in Africa, the number of Mohammed's followers has increased. We cannot state with accuracy the number either of Mohammedan or of nominal Christians; but, looking at religion geographically, while Christianity has almost entire dominion in Europe, in Asia Islamism is one of the dominant religions: in America the cross is rapidly becoming the symbol of faith throughout both its vast continents; but in Africa the crescent waves to the almost entire exclusion of every other emblem.

It is in Turkey that Mohammedanism exists at the present day in its most perfect form. To this country, therefore, our attention shall be first directed.

Constantinople, anciently called Byzantium, and the countries over which the Greek emperors residing in that city reigned, were subdued by the powerful caliphs of Bagdad, while those of Spain and the West were endeavoring to push their conquests over the fairest portions of Europe. The situation of Constantinople and the surrounding empire lay especially open to the Eastern Mohammedans, whose warlike incursions were incessant. Tartars from Asia overran the empire. Othman, in the early part of the thirteenth century, laid the foundation of Turkish greatness. Orchan, Amurath, and Bajazet, his successors, amid both foreign and domestic wars, greatly contributed to its establishment and increase. The children of the last of these conquerors threw the empire into a frightful state of distraction by their unnatural quarrels, till, at last, the youngest of them, named after the Prophet, restored its integrity, and established something like domestic tranquillity. Under a grandson of his, Mohammed II., whom Bayle describes as one of the greatest men recorded in history, the Morea was subjugated, and the Greek empire, so long shaken by internal dissensions, and tottering to dissolution by its luxury, was trampled in the dust by the Moslem conquerors. Constantinople at last yielded to their power, and a palace for the victor was erected on the very spot which Constantine had chosen for his magnificent abode.

From this time to that of Solyman the Magnificent, to whom the Turks owe their laws and police, the empire continued to prosper, but immediately afterward its decline commenced. Letters and science have made but little progress among that people, and their sultans have possessed none of the martial enterprise and energy of their early predecessors; still the faith of Mohammed has maintained, and down to this day continues to maintain, a hold which it enjoys in almost no other country.

The Turks generally repose the most implicit faith in the two leading articles of the Mohammedan creed, that there is but one God, and that Mohammed is his Prophet; and since, in the opinion of the Moslems, a simple assent to these doctrines comprises all that is valuable in religion, and will be surely followed by the possession of heaven, either immediately or remotely, it is readily conceivable that infidelity will be exceedingly rare. In religious matters, the heart opposes not so much what is to be believed as what is to be done.

Minor points of their theology have been from time to time disputed, but these may be regarded as generally settled. Predestination is one of the chief dogmas on which the faith of the Turk is as firmly fixed as on the most momentous article in his creed. Fatalism was the great engine employed by Mohammed in establishing his religion; and among the Turks this doctrine is received as regulating their destiny, controlling all events, and determining the results of every individual's actions; thus unnerving the soul for generous and manly enterprise, and casting a lethargy on the whole nation. In everything the operations of reason are checked, and even Made to wait for the imagined manifestations of Deity. According to the creed of the Turks, not only is everything foreknown to God, but everything is predetermined, and brought about by his direct and immediate agency.

The Turk is keen and wise in his ordinary transactions; in promoting his own interests, he knows how to exercise the powers of his mind; but, when difficulty or doubt overtakes him, he makes no effort. The thick cloud of his misfortunes is suffered to remain; his troubles are yielded to with sullen indifference; he considers it impious to oppose the determinations of the Most High. To all improvement, such a doctrine is a decided and invincible foe; in some circumstances, however, it appears to have its advantages. Does a Mohammedan suffer by calamity? Is he plundered or ruined? He does not fruitlessly bewail his lot. His answer to all murmuring suggestions is, "It was written;" and to the most unexpected transition from opulence to poverty, he submits without a sign. The approach of death does not disturb his tranquility; he makes his ablution, repeats his prayers, professes his belief in God and his Prophet, and in a last appeal to the aid of affection, he says to his child, "turn my head towards Mecca," and calmly expires.

A people's religion is traced in their established and common forms of devotion, and none are more attentive to these than the Turks. To neglect any ceremony which their religion prescribes, is deemed a mark either of inferior understanding or of depraved character. Public decorum is everywhere observed; and though both moral and religious precepts are violated with impunity and without remorse, they are always spoken of with great respect. A Mohammedan is never ashamed to defend his faith; and of his sincerity and firmness, the earnestness of his vindication may be taken as sufficient proof: he not unfrequently interrupts the progress of conversation by repeating his religious formula. In the Turkish towns, travelers are incessantly met with the cry of Allah Akbar; and by Mussulmans, who would be esteemed pious, the divine name is as frequently repeated as if reverent and devout thoughts were habitually uppermost in their minds.

Purifications are constantly, and with great strictness, performed by the Mussulmans of every country, but especially by those of Turkey. Their professed object is to render the body fit for the decorous performance of religious duties; no act being praiseworthy or acceptable, in their estimation, unless the person of the performer be in a condition of purity. Some have thought, but without sufficient grounds, that these external purifications are believed to supersede an inward cleansing of the heart. Fountains placed round their mosques, and numerous baths in every city, enable the devout to perform their five prayers daily, during which, if they chance to receive pollution from anything accidentally coming in contact with them, their devotions are suspended till the offensive inconvenience is removed by water or other means.

At the appointed hour, the Maazeens or criers, with their faces towards Mecca, their eyes closed, and their hands upraised, pace the little galleries of the minarets or towers of the mosques, and proclaim in Arabic, the Moslem language of devotion, that the season of prayer has arrived. Instantly, every one, whatever may be his rank or employment, gives himself up to it. Ministers of state suspend the most important affairs, and prostrate themselves on the floor; the tradesman forgets his dealings, and transforms his shop into a place of devotion; and the student lays aside his books, to go through his accustomed supplications. "Never to fail in his prayers" is the highest commendation a Turk can receive; and so prejudicial is the suspicion of irreligion, that even libertines dare not disregard the notices of the Maazeen. The mosques, like chapels in Catholic countries, are always open, and two or three times every day prayers are offered within their walls. It has often been remarked, that the devotions of Christians might acquire something valuable from the gravity, the decorum, and the apparently intense occupation of mind in Turkish worship. The Jews trod their holy place barefoot: the Turks, on the contrary, keep on their boots and shoes. Christians uncover their heads in prayer; the Moslems seldom lay aside their turbans; but for hours they will remain prostrate, or standing in one position, as if absorbed in the most intense abstraction. They have neither altars, pictures, nor statues in their places of worship. Verses of the Koran, the names and personal descriptions of their Prophet, of Ali and his two sons, Hassan and Hosein, with other Moslem saints, are sometimes inscribed in letters of gold on their walls. All distinctions of rank and profession are forgotten when they pray. Persons of every class, on the first sound of the accustomed cry, cast themselves on the ground, and thus declare their belief in the equality of mankind, in the sight of the great Father of all.

The Mohammedans of Turkey have a Sabbath, for which the Jewish or Christian may be supposed to have furnished the model. Friday is their day of rest, which commences on the preceding evening, when the illuminated minarets and colonnades of the mosques give to their cities the appearance of a festival. At noon, on Friday, all business is suspended, the mosques are filled, and prayers are read by the appointed officers, accompanied by the prostrations of the people. Discourses are likewise frequently delivered on practical points in their theology; and, sometimes, in the ardor of excitement, political corruption and courtly depravity are fiercely assailed. A voluptuous sultan has been known, under the effect of these discourses, to tear himself from the soft indulgences of his harem and court, to lead his martial subjects to war and victory on the plains of their enemies. As soon as the public religious services are concluded, all return to their ordinary pursuits; the day, however, is strictly observed by all classes in the manner prescribed by law, it being a received maxim that he who, without legitimate cause, absents himself from public devotion on three successive Fridays, abjures his religion. It is worthy of observation, that the prayers of the Turks consist chiefly of adoration, of confessions of the divine attributes and the nothingness of man, and of homage and gratitude to the Supreme Being. A Turk must not pray for the frail and perishable blessings of this life; the health of the sultan, the prosperity of his country, and divisions and wars among the Christians alone excepted. The legitimate object of prayer they hold to be spiritual gifts, and happiness in a future state of being.

No one of their religious institutions is more strictly observed by the Turks than the fast of Ramadan. He who violates it is reckoned either an infidel or an apostate; and if two witnesses establish his offense, he is deemed to have incurred the severest penalty of the law. Abstinence from food, and even from the use of perfumes, from sunrise to sunset, is enjoined. The rich pass the hours in meditation and prayer, the grandees sleep away their time, but the laboring man, pursuing his daily toil, most heavily feels its rigor. "When the month of Ramadan happens in the extremities of the seasons, the prescribed abstinence is almost intolerable, and is more severe than the practice of any moral duty, even to the most vicious and depraved of mankind." During the day all traffic is suspended; but in the evening, and till late at night, it is actively carried on in the streets, shops, and bazars, most splendidly illuminated. From sunset to sunrise, revelry and excess are indulged in. Every night there is a feast among the great officers of the court: the reserve of the Turkish character is laid aside, and friends and relations cement their union by mutual intercourse. Sumptuous banquets and convivial hilarity are universal; and, were not women everywhere excluded from the tables of the men, the pleasure of the festivals would amply compensate the rigorous self-denial of their fasts.

The pilgrimage to Mecca is with the Turks more a matter of form than of reality. Its importance as a part of the Moslem ritual is admitted, and apparently felt, but the number of pilgrims annually decreases. The sultan, having dominion over the country through which the pilgrims must pass, preserves the public ways leading to the venerated city; the best soldiers of his empire are charged with the protection of the caravans, which are sometimes numerous; but of his own subjects, properly so called, few comparatively accompany them; they are made up of devotees from a greater distance. The sultan, no doubt, encourages the pilgrimage as much on commercial as on religious grounds. The Koran has determined it to be very proper to intermingle commerce and religion: "It shall be no crime in you," it says, "if ye seek an increase from your Lord by trading during the pilgrimage." Accordingly, articles of easy carriage and ready sale are brought by the pilgrims from every country. The productions and manufactures of India thus find their way into other parts of Asia and throughout Africa. The muslins and chintses of Bengal and the Deccan, the shawls of Cashmere, the pepper of Malabar, the diamonds of Golconda, the pearls of Kilkau, the cinnamon of Ceylon, and the spices of the Moluccas, are made to yield advantage to the Ottoman empire, and the luxury of its subjects is sustained by contributions from the most distant nations.

Mohammedans of the present day, at least those of Turkey, are less anxious to make proselytes than were those of a former age. Those of India and Africa, however, to a great extent, still retain the sentiment, that to convert infidels is an ordinance of God, and must be observed by the faithful in all ages; but in Turkey little desire of this kind is felt, chiefly because, by a refinement of uncharitableness, the conversion of the world is deemed unworthy of their endeavors. Now and then a devout Moslem, instigated by zeal or personal attachment, may offer up this prayer for a Jew or a Christian: "Great God, enlighten this infidel, and graciously dispose his heart to embrace thy holy religion; "and perhaps to a youth, esteemed for his talents or knowledge, the language of persuasion may occasionally be addressed with an air of gentleness and urbanity; but the zeal of the missionary is in such cases commonly subject to what are conceived to be the rules of good breeding, and a vague reply or silence is regarded as an indication that the subject is disagreeable, and should not be continued. A Mussulman may pray for the conversion of infidels, but, till they are converted, no blessing may be supplicated in their behalf. "Their death is eternal, why pray for them?" is the language of the Mohammedan creed: do not "defile your feet by passing over the graves of men who are enemies of God and of his Prophet."

Of the Mohammedan hierarchy, some idea may be obtained from the form it assumes in Turkey. The Koran is considered the treasure of all laws, divine and human, and the caliphs as the depositaries of this treasure; so that they are at once the pontiffs, legislators, and judges of the people, and their office combines all authority, whether sacerdotal, regal, or judicial. To the grand sultan titles are given, styling him the vicar, or the shadow of God. The several powers which pertain to him in this august capacity are delegated to a body of learned men, called the Oulema. In this body three descriptions of officers are included: the ministers of religion, called the Imams; the expounders of the law, called the Muftis; and the ministers of justice, called the Cadis. The ministers of religion are divided into chief and inferior, the former of whom only belong to the Oulema. Both classes are made up of Sheiks, or ordinary preachers; the Khatibs, readers or deacons; the Imams, a title comprising those who perform the service of the mosque on ordinary days, and those to whom pertain the ceremonies of circumcision, marriage, and burial; the Maazeens, or criers, who announce the hours of prayer; and the Cayuns, or common attendants of the mosque. The idea of this classification was, perhaps, taken from the Mosaic priesthood; the Khatib being the Aaron, and the next four the several orders of the Levites, with their servants or helpers. The imperial temples have one Sheik, one Khatib, from two to four Imams, twelve Maazeens, and twenty Cayuns, among whom, except in a few of the chief mosques of Constantinople, the Khatibs have the pre-eminence. All these ministers are subject to the civil magistrate, who is looked upon as a sort of diocesan, and who may perform at any time all the sacerdotal functions. The ministers of religion are not distinguishable from other people; they mix in the same society, engage in similar pursuits, and affect no greater austerity than marks the behavior of Mussulmans generally. Their influence depends entirely on their reputation for learning and talents, for gravity and correct moral conduct; their employment is, for the most part, very simple, as chanting aloud the public service, and performing such offices as every master of a family may discharge. As Mohammedanism acknowledges no sacrifices, it appoints no priests; the duties performed by the ministers of religion being seemingly devolved on them more as a matter of convenience than on account of any sacredness attaching to their order.

The vast country to which the general name of Tartary has been given, is that from whence Mohammedanism has gone forth to the East, the West, and the South. In Thibet, the Grand Lama and various national idols hold divided empire with the Prophet; and in the inhospitable regions of Siberia, the churches of Greece and Russia have successfully promulgated the Christian doctrines; while the Circassians, with some other Tartar races, are almost without religion. In the Crimea, the people are Mussulmans, as rigid and devoted as the Turks; and over the vast tract called by modern geographers Russian and Chinese Tartary, the crescent triumphantly waves. From these regions sprung, in the earlier ages of Mohammedan conquest, those vast empires which, in the East, comprise so large a number of the professors of the faith of Islam.

The first sovereign of this country, to whom the title of sultan was awarded early in the tenth century, conducted several expeditions into Hindustan, and secured the homage of many of the cities. The ancient Indian superstition was in a great measure overturned by his victorious arms. Long and fierce contests ensued: the princes of the subdued provinces, often throwing off their forced allegiance, endeavored to regain their independence and re-establish their ancient faith, till, at length, the great Timurlane, having overrun the country with his legions, received at Agra the title of Emperor of Hindustan. Scarcely, however, had two centuries and a half rolled away, when his successors fell in their turn under the Persian power; and the empire he established was weakened, and ultimately destroyed. As the result of these conquests, Mohammedanism prevailed to a great extent, but rather nominally than really, among the millions of India: it was the religion of the court and government; but, either from indifference or timidity in the Moslem conquerors, the ancient idols still held extensive influence, and were at length gradually restored.

In the twelfth century, Benares, the ancient seat of Brahminical learning and of Hindu idolatry, fell into the hands of the conqueror, who destroyed its numerous objects of popular adoration. Yet, soon afterward, the religious character of the place was restored, and the demolished idols were replaced by others, that were as eagerly resorted to as had been their predecessors. To this consecrated metropolis, a pilgrimage was regarded by the millions of India as imperatively commanded, and as necessary as was a visit to Mecca by the Mohammedans; and the weakness or the policy of its Moslem conquerors did not long withhold from them this valued privilege; the government of the city was committed to the Hindus, and their conquerors, in the plenitude of their bigotry, pride, and power, never thought of suffering their own magistrates to exercise authority within its walls. Thus Mohammedanism is the religion, not of the ancient inhabitants of India, but of the descendants of the millions of Tartars, Persians, and Arabians who, at various periods, have left their native seats to participate in the riches of these far-famed plains. The north and northwestern parts are filled with them, and from thence they have wandered over the whole of that vast country. Perhaps their numbers may now amount to nearly sixty-three millions, among whom, however, though they are mostly of foreign extraction, are many converts from Hinduism. They form separate communities, amalgamating in some parts of the country, and living as sociably with Hindus as the differences in their respective faiths will permit. Hindu Princes have at time paid their devotions at Mohammedan shrines and observed their feasts; while Mohammedans have relaxed somewhat the strictness of their observances, and manifested an inclination to conform, as far as possible, to their Hindu neighbors.

Some five centuries ago, the Borahs, a people who once occupied the kingdom of Guzerat, were converted en masse  to Islamism. The Arab traders to the coasts of Malabar have always been exceedingly earnest in their endeavors to convert the natives, in which they have been greatly aided by the facility with which they have been allowed to purchase the children of the poorer classes, to educate them in the principles of their faith, and also by the frequency with which the inhabitants of those districts lose caste. This badge of the Hindu faith is often forfeited by the people mixing with those of other countries, and when it is lost they easily become Moslems.

It has been maintained that the native inhabitants of India are absolutely unchangeable in their sacred, domestic, and political institutions, and, at first sight, there would appear to be much to warrant such an opinion; but the history of many of them, and especially of the Sikhs, who inhabit the provinces of the Punjab, between the rivers Jumna and Indus, may be alleged as proofs to the contrary. Still, in the religion of the Sikhs, Mohammedan fable and Hindu absurdity are mixed; its founder wishing to unite both these prevalent systems in one. He had been educated in apart of the country where these two religions appeared to touch each other, if not commingle, and he was no stranger to the violent animosity existing between their respective professors; he sought, therefore, to blend the jarring elements of both in peaceful union. The Hindu was required to abandon his idols, and to worship the one Supreme Deity whom his religion acknowledged; while the Mohammedan was to abstain from such practices (especially the killing of cows) as were offensive to the superstition of the Hindus. This plan so far prevailed, that, without acknowledging the Prophet, the Sikhs became more Mohammedans than Hindus; and though the institutions of Brahma are not admitted among them, they insult and persecute true Moslems more fiercely and cruelly than any other people. They compel them to eat that which is forbidden by their law; animals which they account unclean are frequently thrown into their places of public assembly, and they are prohibited from proclaiming the hour of prayer to the faithful.

China is one of those countries to which Mohammedanism was carried by the hordes of Tartary. From the scrupulous jealousy with which this vast empire is guarded from observation, it is difficult to say to what extent the Mohammedan faith, or, indeed, any other, prevails among its numberless inhabitants; but beyond question, it is tolerated.

The irruption of the Saracens into China under Walid can scarcely be termed a conquest. Subsequently, the successors of Genghis Khan seated themselves on the throne of Pekin, and opened the country to an intercourse with all nations. The commercial Arabs had visited the ports and cities in the south of China; and, now that access to the capital was unrestrained, multitudes of them repaired thither. They acquired the language, and adopted the dress and manners of the people, to whom also they rendered valuable aid in adjusting their chronology, and making the necessary calculations for their calendar. Intercourse with the Chinese made the Mohammedans desirous of effecting their conversion, the means adopted for which were both wise and humane. Deserted children were taken under their protection, and educated in Islamism; while in other ways they sought to commend themselves to confidence, and their religion to respect, by alleviating the wretchedness induced by a cruel superstition. The Mohammedans of China seem to partake of the mild and quiet character of the inhabitants generally, and are therefore tolerated; though there have been some exceptions to this encomium.

In the year of 1784 they were instrumental in promoting an unsuccessful rebellion, and the Emperor Kien Long, after suppressing it, ordered one hundred thousand of them to be put to death.

Persia, from an early period, has been almost entirely a Mohammedan country. On its conquest by the Saracens, the religion of Zoroaster, which had till then prevailed, was nearly abolished. Those who persevered in retaining it were obliged to flee to the mountains or to the western parts of India, where their old forms of worship still linger. In the disputes which ensued on the death of Mohammed concerning the caliphate, the Persians espoused the cause of Ali, the Prophet's son-in-law, and to his memory they are still attached. "May this arrow go to the heart of Omar," is a frequent expression among them in drawing a bow; and not long since, when Mr. Malcolm, during his travels in Persia, was praising Omar, the antagonist of All, as the greatest of the caliphs, a Persian, overcome by the justice of his observations, yet still adhering to his rooted prejudices, replied, "This is all very true, but he was a dog after all."

Here Mohammedanism exists in a less rigorous form than in Turkey. Its ceremonies are observed by those who are little disposed to practice its moral code: they say their prayers at the appointed season, and make a show of devotion to prevent their being suspected of irreligion; but the people generally are little concerned about the pilgrimage to Mecca, and other matters on which, in the Koran, much stress is laid. They choose rather to resort to the tomb of Ali, and to that of his son Hosein, whose name is reverenced among them with a feeling approaching to adoration.

In Africa, Mohammedanism has very widely prevailed. Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, all the northern parts of this continent, acknowledge its sway. From Arabia and Egypt it spread west and south nearly to the great rivers. It is the established religion of Morocco; and in Western Barbary and in many regions of the interior the Arabic language is spoken, the Koran believed, and the Prophet almost worshipped. The Senegal, tip to the small Moorish state of Gedumah, is the line of division between the Mohammedans and the Negroes: from thence the line passes eastward of north, through Nigritia and Nubia to the Nile. As yet, however, it is but indistinctly marked, it being doubtful whether Timbuctoo is a Mohammedan or Negro town. The courts of Bornou and Cassina are Mohammedan, but a majority of their subjects are pagans. Islamism in these vast territories is in an exceedingly degenerate state when compared with either its first development in the Arabian desert, or with what now obtains in Turkey. It is said that but little more than its exclusive persecuting spirit remains: the Oriental lustrations are almost unknown, Mohammedan temperance is neglected, and the great doctrine of the unity of God is confounded with, or supplanted by, the polytheism of the native inhabitants. The Mussulman is more depraved than the pagan; so that, while travelers frequently mention the hospitality they received from the latter, by the former they were constantly insulted and annoyed on account of their religion. In no quarter of the world does the faith of the Prophet wear so frightful an aspect as in Africa.

The region from which Mohammedanism first sprung has not remained in all respects faithful to the precepts of the Prophet. In Mecca and Medina, indeed, his name and system are held in the profoundest veneration; and no wonder, since both these cities are mainly supported by the superstitious observances enjoined in the Koran; but the Bedouins are as licentious in their religion as in their policy and habits. On the Turkish frontiers they keep up an appearance of respect for the name of the Prophet and his doctrines; but, in answer to all reproaches for their unfaithfulness, they say in words worthy a better taught and more civilized race, "The religion of Mohammed could never have been intended for us. We have no water in the desert. How, then, can we make the prescribed ablutions? We have no money. How, then, can we give alms? The fast of Ramadan is a useless command to persons who fast all the year round; and, if God be everywhere, why should we go to Mecca to adore him?"

From the southernmost part of Hindustan, Mohammedanism made its way to the Malayan peninsula; to Sumatra, Java, Borneo, the Manilas, and the Celebes: Goram, one of the Spice Islands, is its eastern boundary. In the interior of these islands it prevails less than on the shores. To these remote regions Islamism has been carried more by the commercial than the military enterprise of its votaries. What is its present condition there, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, accurately to ascertain. In Java it was the established religion; but, when the Dutch settled that island early in the seventeenth century, many of the natives were converted. Little respect is paid by the Javans of the present day either to their ancient paganism, or to Mohammedanism which took its place; though some of the forms of the latter are still in force, and its institutions are said to be gaining ground.

The reader of Mohammedan history will meet with the terms Sooffee and Wahabee, as designating certain divisions of the disciples of the religion of the Prophet. It will not, therefore, be inappropriate to close with a brief account of these respective sects.

Sooffee is a term originating in Persia, meaning enthusiasts or mystics, or persons distinguished by extraordinary sanctity. The object of the Sooffee is to attain a divine beatitude, which he describes as consisting in absorption into the essence of Deity. The soul, according to his doctrine, is an emanation from God, partaking of his nature; just as the rays of light are emanations from the sun, and of the same nature with the source from whence they are derived. The creature and the Creator are of one substance. No one can become a Sooffee without strictly conforming to the established religion, and practicing every social virtue; and when, by this means, he has gained a habit of devotion, he may exchange what they style practical for spiritual worship, and abandon the observance of all religious forms and ceremonies. He at length becomes inspired, arrives at truth, drops his corporeal veil, and mixes again with that glorious essence from which he has been partially and for a time separated. The life of the Sooffees of Persia, though generally austere, is not rendered miserable, like that of the visionary devotees of Hinduism, by the practice of dreadful severities, their most celebrated teachers have been famed for knowledge and devotion.

The Persians are a poetic people, and the very genius of Sooffeeism is poetry. Its raptures are the raptures of inspiration; its hopes are those of a highly sensitive and excited imagination; its writers in the sweetest strains celebrate the Divine love, which pervades all nature: everything, from the very highest to the lowest, seeking and tending towards union with Deity as its object of supreme desire. They inculcate forbearance, abstemiousness, and universal benevolence. They are unqualified predestinarians. The emanating principle, or the soul, proceeding from God, can do nothing, they say, without his will, nor refuse to do anything which he instigates. Some of them, consequently, deny the existence of evil; and the doctrine of rewards and punishments is superseded by their idea of reabsorption into the Divine essence. The free opinions of this class of enthusiasts subvert the doctrines of Islamism, yet they pay an outward respect to them; they unsettle the existing belief, without providing an intelligible substitute; they admit the divine mission of the Prophet, but explain away the dogmas he uttered; and while they affect to yield him honor as a person raised up by God, to induce moral order in the world, they boast their own direct and familiar intercourse with Deity, and claim, on that account, unqualified obedience in all that relates to spiritual interests.

The similarity of Sooffeeism to the ancient Pythagorean and Platonic doctrines will occur to every one at all acquainted with the religion and philosophy of antiquity. It as closely resembles some of the distinguishing tenets of the Brahminical faith. In fact, it seems as if designed, in conjunction with the refined theology of ancient, and the sublime visions of modern idolaters, to teach us that, without Divine guidance, the loftiest human conceptions on subjects connected with God and religion invariably err; the ignorant and the instructed are equally wrong; "the world by wisdom knows not God."

The Wahabees are a modern sect of Mohammedan reformers, whose efforts have considerably changed the aspect of the religion of the Prophet. Perhaps to them may be owing much of that rigid adherence to Mohammedan doctrine and practice which prevails in those parts where their influence has been felt. They are the followers of Abdal Wahab, who commenced his career in the region where, during the lifetime of the Prophet, Moseilama had threatened a considerable division among his followers. Wahab was an ambitious fanatic, who aimed, nevertheless, at reforming the national religion. He was aided by powerful princes of the province of Nejed; and, within a short time, the tenets he maintained spread throughout the peninsula. His fundamental principle, like that of Mohammed, was the unity of God. The Koran he regarded as divine, rejecting all the glosses which ignorance and infatuation had put upon it, and holding in utter contempt all the traditions and tales concerning its author, which the devout of every generation had eagerly received. The reverence, approaching to adoration, which the Arabs were wont to pay to the name of Mohammed, all visits to his tomb, and all regard to the tombs and relics of Arab saints, he denounced; and the costly ornaments with which a mistaken piety had enriched these sacred spots, he thought might be appropriated to ordinary purposes. Wahab would not suffer the common oath of, by Mohammed, or by Ali, to be used among his followers, on the very rational ground that an oath is an appeal to a witness of our secret thoughts, and who can know these but God? The title of Lord, generally given to the Prophet by his followers, Wahab rejected as impious. He was commonly mentioned by this zealous reformer and his adherents by his simple name, without the addition of "our Lord, the Prophet of God." All who deviated in any degree from the plain sense of the Koran, either in belief or practice, were infidels in their esteem; upon whom, therefore, according to its directions, war might be made. Thus was the martial spirit of the early Saracens again called into exercise; and with the ardor that characterized the days of the immediate successors of the Prophet, they were prepared at once to assail the consciences and the property of men not exactly of their own faith.

At the call of their leader, they assembled first in the plain of Draaiya, some 400 miles east of Medina, armed and provided at their own expense for war. Bagdad and Mecca in vain attempted to suppress them; the seraglio itself was filled with their formidable war-cry; the sultan trembled on his throne; and the caravans from Syria suspended their usual journeys. The imperial city suffered from their ravages in its usual supplies of coffee; and the terror of their name was widely spreading among devout Mohammedans of every country, for they had violated the shrines of saints, and leveled to the ground the chapels at Mecca, which devotion had consecrated to the memory of the Prophet and his family. At the commencement of the present century, however, Mecca was recovered from them by the Turkish arms, and the plague, with the smallpox, breaking out just at this time among the followers of Wahab, probably saved the mighty fabric of Islamism. These reverses did not quench, however, the ardor of the Wahabees. Their leader had been assassinated, but his son, already distinguished for his prudence and valor, succeeded him in the command. Medina fell beneath his power, and from thence to the Persian Gulf he seemed likely to reign lord paramount. In 1805 he was able to impose a heavy tax on the caravan of pilgrims from Damascus to the Holy City, and declared that thenceforth it should consist of pilgrims alone, without the pride and pomp of a religious procession. Soon afterward they again entered Mecca, and immediately threatened with destruction every sacred relic; but they did not put their threats into execution. Various conflicts between them and the orthodox Mohammedans have since ensued, the general result of which has been to break the martial and fanatical spirit of the Wahabees, and to re-establish the power of the grand sultan in cities and districts where it had been placed in jeopardy. They are still, indeed, dreaded as plunderers, but no great national convulsion has resulted from their efforts.

Some writers regret the suppression of this once powerful sect of Mohammedans, believing that, if continued, they would have been instrumental in over-throwing the Moslem faith, and making way for a purer religion; but for ourselves, we see little occasion for these regrets. The Wahabees must not be supposed more favorable to a pure faith than are those by whom they have been overthrown. If they must be regarded as reformers, they only attempted to correct a few absurb and scandalous practices: the impious and abominable dogmas of the Koran they left untouched; or, if they touched them, it was only to enforce their observance with greater rigor. Their creed was even more sanguinary and intolerant than that of the ancient Mohammedans, and probably the continuance of their power would have been nothing more than the continuance of injustice, cruelty and persecution. We do not look for the overthrow of Mohammedanism by such means. One system of error may sometimes destroy another, but the pure faith, which blesses a miserable world by directing men in the path of safety, knowledge, and happiness, will extend only as the sacred volume is diffused, and as that holy influence from God accompanies it by which the understanding is illuminated and the heart renewed. Fanaticism is no auxiliary of the religion of the Bible; it neither prepares its way nor accelerates its progress. Violence and war are utterly rejected by this divine system, as alien from its spirit and character. "My kingdom," says its founder, "is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight; but now is my kingdom not from hence."