Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, by Richard Burton

Chapter XXVII.

The First Visit to the House of Allah.

THE boy Mohammed left me in the street, and having at last persuaded the sleepy and tired Indian porter, by violent kicks and testy answers to twenty cautious queries, to swing open the huge gate of his fortress, he rushed up stairs to embrace his mother. After a minute I heard the Zaghritah,1 Lululu, or shrill cry which in these lands welcomes the wanderer home; the sound so gladdening to the returner sent a chill to the stranger’s heart.

Presently the youth returned. His manner had changed from a boisterous and jaunty demeanour to one of grave and attentive courtesy — I had become his guest. He led me into the gloomy hall, seated me upon a large carpeted Mastabah, or platform, and told his bara Miyan2 (great Sir), the Hindustani porter, to bring a light. Meanwhile a certain shuffling of slippered feet above informed my ears that the Kabirah,3 the mistress of the house, was intent on hospitable thoughts. When the camels were unloaded, appeared a dish of fine vermicelli, browned and powdered with loaf sugar. The boy Mohammed, I, and Shaykh Nur, lost no time in exerting our right hands; and truly, after our hungry journey, we found the Kunafah delicious. After the meal we procured cots from a neighbouring coffee-house, and we lay down, weary, and anxious to snatch an hour or two of repose. At dawn we were expected to perform our Tawaf al-Kudum, or “Circumambulation of Arrival,” at the Harim.

Scarcely had the first smile of morning beamed upon the rugged head of the eastern hill, Abu Kubays,4 when we arose, bathed, and proceeded in our pilgrim-garb to the Sanctuary. We entered by the Bab al-Ziyadah, or principal northern door, descended two long flights of steps, traversed the cloister, and stood in sight of the Bayt Allah.

There at last it lay, the bourn of my long and weary Pilgrimage, realising the plans and hopes of many and many a year. The mirage medium of Fancy invested the huge catafalque and its gloomy pall with peculiar charms. There were no giant fragments of hoar antiquity as in Egypt, no remains of graceful and harmonious beauty as in Greece and Italy, no barbarous gorgeousness as in the buildings of India; yet the view was strange, unique — and how few have looked upon the celebrated shrine! I may truly say that, of all the worshippers who clung weeping to the curtain, or who pressed their beating hearts to the stone, none felt for the moment a deeper emotion than did the Haji from the far-north. It was as if the poetical legends of the Arab spoke truth, and that the waving wings of angels, not the sweet breeze of morning, were agitating and swelling the black covering of the shrine. But, to confess humbling truth, theirs was the high feeling of religious enthusiasm, mine was the ecstasy of gratified pride.

Few Moslems contemplate for the first time the Ka’abah, without fear and awe: there is a popular jest against new comers, that they generally inquire the direction of prayer. This being the Kiblah, or fronting place, Moslems pray all around it; a circumstance which of course cannot take place in any spot of Al-Islam but the Harim. The boy Mohammed, therefore, left me for a few minutes to myself; but presently he warned me that it was time to begin. Advancing, we entered through the Bab Benu Shaybah, the “Gate of the Sons of the Shaybah5” (old woman). There we raised our hands, repeated the Labbayk, the Takbir, and the Tahlil; after which we uttered certain supplications, and drew our hands down our faces. Then we proceeded to the Shafe’is’ place of worship — the open pavement between the Makam Ibrahim and the well Zemzem — where we performed the usual two-bow prayer in honour of the Mosque. This was followed by a cup of holy water and a present to the Sakkas, or carriers, who for the consideration distributed, in my name, a large earthen vaseful to poor pilgrims.

The word Zemzem has a doubtful origin. Some derive it from the Zam Zam, or murmuring of its waters, others from Zam! Zam! (fill! fill! i.e. the bottle), Hagar’s impatient exclamation when she saw the stream. Sale translates it stay! stay! and says that Hagar called out in the Egyptian language, to prevent her son wandering. The Hukama, or Rationalists of Al-Islam, who invariably connect their faith with the worship of Venus, especially, and the heavenly bodies generally, derive Zemzem from the Persian, and make it signify the “great luminary.” Hence they say the Zemzem, as well as the Ka’abah, denoting the Cuthite or Ammonian worship of sun and fire, deserves man’s reverence. So the Persian poet Khakani addresses these two buildings:—

“O Ka’abah, thou traveller of the heavens!”

“O Venus, thou fire of the world!”

Thus Wahid Mohammed, founder of the Wahidiyah sect, identifies the Kiblah and the sun; wherefore he says the door fronts the East. By the names Yaman (“right-hand”), Sham (“left-hand”), Kubul, or the East wind (“fronting”), and Dubur, or the West wind (“from the back”), it is evident that worshippers fronted the rising sun. According to the Hukama, the original Black Stone represents Venus, “which in the border of the heavens is a star of the planets,” and symbolical of the generative power of nature, “by whose passive energy the universe was warmed into life and motion.” The Hindus accuse the Moslems of adoring the Bayt Ullah.

“O Moslem, if thou worship the Ka’abah,

Why reproach the worshippers of idols?”

says Rai Manshar. And Musaylimah, who in his attempt to found a fresh faith, gained but the historic epithet of “Liar,” allowed his followers to turn their faces in any direction, mentally ejaculating, “I address myself to thee, who hast neither side nor figure;” a doctrine which might be sensible in the abstract, but certainly not material enough and pride-flattering to win him many converts in Arabia.

The produce of Zemzem is held in great esteem. It is used for drinking and religious ablution, but for no baser purposes; and the Meccans advise pilgrims always to break their fast with it. It is apt to cause diarrhoea and boils, and I never saw a stranger drink it without a wry face. Sale is decidedly correct in his assertion: the flavour is a salt-bitter, much resembling an infusion of a teaspoonful of Epsom salts in a large tumbler of tepid water. Moreover, it is exceedingly “heavy” to the digestion. For this reason Turks and other strangers prefer rain-water, collected in cisterns and sold for five farthings a gugglet. It was a favourite amusement with me to watch them whilst they drank the holy water, and to taunt their scant and irreverent potations.

The strictures of the Calcutta Review (No. 41, art. 1), based upon the taste of Zemzem, are unfounded. In these days a critic cannot be excused for such hasty judgments; at Calcutta or Bombay he would easily find a jar of Zemzem water, which he might taste for himself. Upon this passage Mr. W. Muir (Life of Mahomet, vol. i, p. cclviii.) remarks that “the flavour of stale water bottled up for months would not be a criterion of the same water freshly drawn.” But it might easily be analysed.

The water is transmitted to distant regions in glazed earthern jars covered with basket-work, and sealed by the Zemzemis. Religious men break their lenten fast with it, apply it to their eyes to brighten vision, and imbibe a few drops at the hour of death, when Satan stands by holding a bowl of purest water, the price of the departing soul. Of course modern superstition is not idle about the waters of Zemzem. The copious supply of the well is considered at Meccah miraculous; in distant countries it facilitates the pron[o]unciation of Arabic to the student; and everywhere the nauseous draught is highly meritorious in a religious point of view.

We then advanced towards the eastern angle of the Ka’abah, in which is inserted the Black Stone; and, standing about ten yards from it, repeated with upraised hands, “There is no god but Allah alone, Whose Covenant is Truth, and Whose Servant is Victorious. There is no god but Allah, without Sharer; His is the Kingdom, to Him be Praise, and He over all Things is potent.” After which we approached as close as we could to the stone. A crowd of pilgrims preventing our touching it that time, we raised our hands to our ears, in the first position of prayer, and then lowering them, exclaimed, “O Allah (I do this), in Thy Belief, and in verification of Thy Book, and in Pursuance of Thy Prophet’s Example — may Allah bless Him and preserve! O Allah, I extend my Hand to Thee, and great is my Desire to Thee! O accept Thou my Supplication, and diminish my Obstacles, and pity my Humiliation, and graciously grant me Thy Pardon!” After which, as we were still unable to reach the stone, we raised our hands to our ears, the palms facing the stone, as if touching it, recited the various religious formulae, the Takbir, the Tahlil, and the Hamdilah, blessed the Prophet, and kissed the finger-tips of the right hand. The Prophet used to weep when he touched the Black Stone, and said that it was the place for the pouring forth of tears. According to most authors, the second Caliph also used to kiss it. For this reason most Moslems, except the Shafe’i school, must touch the stone with both hands and apply their lips to it, or touch it with the fingers, which should be kissed, or rub the palms upon it, and afterwards draw them down the face. Under circumstances of difficulty, it is sufficient to stand before the stone, but the Prophet’s Sunnat, or practice, was to touch it. Lucian mentions adoration of the sun by kissing the hand.

Then commenced the ceremony of Tawaf,6 or circumambulation, our route being the Mataf — the low oval of polished granite immediately surrounding the Ka’abah. I repeated, after my Mutawwif, or cicerone,7 “In the Name of Allah, and Allah is omnipotent! I purpose to circuit seven circuits unto Almighty Allah, glorified and exalted!” This is technically called the Niyat (intention) of Tawaf. Then we began the prayer, “O Allah (I do this), in Thy Belief, and in Verification of Thy Book, and in Faithfulness to Thy Covenant, and in Perseverance of the Example of the Apostle Mohammed — may Allah bless Him and preserve!” till we reached the place Al-Multazem, between the corner of the Black Stone and the Ka’abah door. Here we ejaculated, “O Allah, Thou hast Rights, so pardon my transgressing them.” Opposite the door we repeated, “O Allah, verily the House is Thy House, and the Sanctuary Thy Sanctuary, and the Safeguard Thy Safeguard, and this is the Place of him who flies to Thee from (hell) Fire!” At the little building called Makam Ibrahim we said, “O Allah, verily this is the Place of Abraham, who took Refuge with and fled to Thee from the Fire! — O deny my Flesh and Blood, my Skin and Bones to the (eternal) Flames!” As we paced slowly round the north or Irak corner of the Ka’abah we exclaimed, “O Allah, verily I take Refuge with Thee from Polytheism, and Disobedience, and Hypocrisy, and evil Conversation, and evil Thoughts concerning Family, and Property, and Progeny!” When fronting the Mizab, or spout, we repeated the words, “O Allah, verily I beg of Thee Faith which shall not decline, and a Certainty which shall not perish, and the good Aid of Thy Prophet Mohammed — may Allah bless Him and preserve! O Allah, shadow me in Thy Shadow on that Day when there is no Shade but Thy Shadow, and cause me to drink from the Cup of Thine Apostle Mohammed — may Allah bless Him and preserve! — that pleasant Draught after which is no Thirst to all Eternity, O Lord of Honour and Glory!” Turning the west corner, or the Rukn al-Shami, we exclaimed, “O Allah, make it an acceptable Pilgrimage, and a Forgiveness of Sins, and a laudable Endeavour, and a pleasant Action (in Thy sight), and a store which perisheth not, O Thou Glorious! O Thou Pardoner!” This was repeated thrice, till we arrived at the Yamani, or south corner, where, the crowd being less importunate, we touched the wall with the right hand, after the example of the Prophet, and kissed the finger-tips. Finally, between the south angle and that of the Black Stone, where our circuit would be completed, we said, “O Allah, verily I take Refuge with Thee from Infidelity, and I take Refuge with Thee from Want, and from the Tortures of the Tomb, and from the Troubles of Life and Death. And I fly to Thee from Ignominy in this World and the next, and I implore Thy Pardon for the Present and for the Future. O Lord, grant to me in this Life Prosperity, and in the next Life Prosperity, and save me from the Punishment of Fire.”

Thus finished a Shaut, or single course round the house. Of these we performed the first three at the pace called Harwalah, very similar to the French pas gymnastique, or Tarammul, that is to say, “moving the shoulders as if walking in sand.” The four latter are performed in Ta’ammul, slowly and leisurely; the reverse of the Sai, or running. These seven Ashwat, or courses, are called collectively one Usbu ([Arabic]). The Moslem origin of this custom is too well known to require mention. After each Taufah[,] or circuit, we, being unable to kiss or even to touch the Black Stone, fronted towards it, raised our hands to our ears, exclaimed, “In the Name of Allah, and Allah is omnipotent!” kissed our fingers, and resumed the ceremony of circumambulation, as before, with “Allah, in Thy Belief,” &c.

At the conclusion of the Tawaf it was deemed advisable to attempt to kiss the stone. For a time I stood looking in despair at the swarming crowd of Badawi and other pilgrims that besieged it. But the boy Mohammed was equal to the occasion. During our circuit he had displayed a fiery zeal against heresy and schism, by foully abusing every Persian in his path8; and the inopportune introduction of hard words into his prayers made the latter a strange patchwork; as “Ave Maria purissima — arrah, dont ye be letting the pig at the pot — sanctissima,” and so forth. He might, for instance, be repeating “And I take Refuge with Thee from Ignominy in this World,” when “O thou rejected one, son of the rejected!” would be the interpolation addressed to some long-bearded Khorasani — “And in that to come”—“O hog and brother of a hoggess!” And so he continued till I wondered that none dared to turn and rend him. After vainly addressing the pilgrims, of whom nothing could be seen but a mosaic of occupits and shoulder-blades, the boy Mohammed collected about half a dozen stalwart Meccans, with whose assistance, by sheer strength, we wedged our way into the thin and light-legged crowd. The Badawin turned round upon us like wild-cats, but they had no daggers. The season being autumn, they had not swelled themselves with milk for six months; and they had become such living mummies, that I could have managed single-handed half a dozen of them. After thus reaching the stone, despite popular indignation testified by impatient shouts, we monopolised the use of it for at least ten minutes. Whilst kissing it and rubbing hands and forehead upon it I narrowly observed it, and came away persuaded that it is an aerolite. It is curious that almost all travellers agree upon one point, namely, that the stone is volcanic. Ali Bey calls it “mineralogically” a “block of volcanic basalt, whose circumference is sprinkled with little crystals, pointed and straw-like, with rhombs of tile-red feldspath upon a dark background, like velvet or charcoal, except one of its protuberances, which is reddish.” Burckhardt thought it was “a lava containing several small extraneous particles of a whitish and of a yellowish substance.”

Having kissed the stone we fought our way through the crowd to the place called Al-Multazem. Here we pressed our stomachs, chests, and right cheeks to the Ka’abah, raising our arms high above our heads and exclaiming, “O Allah! O Lord of the Ancient House, free my Neck from Hell-fire, and preserve me from every ill Deed, and make me contented with that daily bread which Thou hast given to me, and bless me in all Thou hast granted!” Then came the Istighfar, or begging of pardon; “I beg Pardon of Allah the most high, who, there is no other God but He, the Living, the Eternal, and unto Him I repent myself!” After which we blessed the Prophet, and then asked for ourselves all that our souls most desired.9

After embracing the Multazem, we repaired to the Shafe’is’ place of prayer near the Makam Ibrahim, and there recited two prostrations, technically called Sunnat al-Tawaf, or the (Apostle’s) practice of circumambulation. The chapter repeated in the first was “Say thou, O Infidels”: in the second, “Say thou He is the one God.10” We then went to the door of the building in which is Zemzem: there I was condemned to another nauseous draught, and was deluged with two or three skinfuls of water dashed over my head en douche. This ablution causes sins to fall from the spirit like dust.11 During the potation we prayed, “O Allah, verily I beg of Thee plentiful daily Bread, and profitable Learning, and the healing of every Disease!” Then we returned towards the Black Stone, stood far away opposite, because unable to touch it, ejaculated the Takbir, the Tahlil, and the Hamdilah; and thoroughly worn out with scorched feet and a burning head — both extremities, it must be remembered, were bare, and various delays had detained us till ten A.M. — I left the Mosque.12

The boy Mohammed had miscalculated the amount of lodging in his mother’s house. She, being a widow and a lone woman, had made over for the season all the apartments to her brother, a lean old Meccan, of true ancient type, vulture-faced, kite-clawed, with a laugh like a hyena, and a mere shell of body. He regarded me with no favouring eye when I insisted as a guest upon having some place of retirement; but he promised that, after our return from Arafat, a little store-room should be cleared out for me. With that I was obliged to be content, and to pass that day in the common male drawing-room of the house, a vestibule on the ground floor, called in Egypt a Takhta-bush.13 Entering, to the left (A) was a large Mastabah, or platform, and at the bottom (B) a second, of smaller dimensions and foully dirty. Behind this was a dark and unclean store-room (C) containing the Hajis’ baggage. Opposite the Mastabah was a firepan for pipes and coffee (D), superintended by a family of lean Indians; and by the side (E) a doorless passage led to a bathing-room (F) and staircase (G).

I had scarcely composed myself upon the carpeted Mastabah, when the remainder was suddenly invaded by the Turkish, or rather Slavo-Turk, pilgrims inhabiting the house, and a host of their visitors. They were large, hairy men, with gruff voices and square figures; they did not take the least notice of me, although[,] feeling the intrusion, I stretched out my legs with a provoking nonchalance.14 At last one of them addressed me in Turkish, to which I replied by shaking my head. His question being interpreted to me in Arabic, I drawled out, “My native place is the land of Khorasan.” This provoked a stern and stony stare from the Turks, and an “ugh!” which said plainly enough, “Then you are a pestilent heretic.” I surveyed them with a self-satisfied simper, stretched my legs a trifle farther, and conversed with my water-pipe. Presently, when they all departed for a time, the boy Mohammed raised, by request, my green box of medicines, and deposited it upon the Mastabah; thus defining, as it were, a line of demarcation, and asserting my privilege to it before the Turks. Most of these men were of one party, headed by a colonel of Nizam, whom they called a Bey. My acquaintance with them began roughly enough, but afterwards, with some exceptions, who were gruff as an English butcher when accosted by a lean foreigner, they proved to be kind-hearted and not unsociable men. It often happens to the traveller, as the charming Mrs. Malaprop observes, to find intercourse all the better by beginning with a little aversion.

In the evening, accompanied by the boy Mohammed, and followed by Shaykh Nur, who carried a lantern and a praying-rug, I again repaired to the “Navel of the World15; this time aesthetically, to enjoy the delights of the hour after the “gaudy, babbling, and remorseful day.” The moon, now approaching the full, tipped the brow of Abu Kubays, and lit up the spectacle with a more solemn light. In the midst stood the huge bier-like erection —

“Black as the wings

Which some spirit of ill o’er a sepulchre flings,”

— except where the moonbeams streaked it like jets of silver falling upon the darkest marble. It formed the point of rest for the eye; the little pagoda-like buildings and domes around it, with all their gilding and fretwork, vanished. One object, unique in appearance, stood in view — the temple of the one Allah, the God of Abraham, of Ishmael, and of their posterity. Sublime it was, and expressing by all the eloquence of fancy the grandeur of the One Idea which vitalised Al-Islam, and the strength and steadfastness of its votaries.

The oval pavement round the Ka’abah was crowded with men, women, and children, mostly divided into parties, which followed a Mutawwif; some walking staidly, and others running, whilst many stood in groups to prayer. What a scene of contrasts! Here stalked the Badawi woman, in her long black robe like a nun’s serge, and poppy-coloured face-veil, pierced to show two fiercely flashing orbs. There an Indian woman, with her semi-Tartar features, nakedly hideous, and her thin legs, encased in wrinkled tights, hurried round the fane. Every now and then a corpse, borne upon its wooden shell, circuited the shrine by means of four bearers, whom other Moslems, as is the custom, occasionally relieved. A few fair-skinned Turks lounged about, looking cold and repulsive, as their wont is. In one place a fast Calcutta Khitmugar stood, with turband awry and arms akimbo, contemplating the view jauntily, as those “gentlemen’s gentlemen” will do. In another, some poor wretch, with arms thrown on high, so that every part of his person might touch the Ka’abah, was clinging to the curtain and sobbing as though his heart would break.

From this spectacle my eyes turned towards Abu Kubays. The city extends in that direction half-way up the grim hill: the site might be compared, at a humble distance, to Bath. Some writers liken it to Florence; but conceive a Florence without beauty! To the South lay Jabal Jiyad the Greater,16 also partly built over and crowned with a fort, which at a distance looks less useful than romantic17: a flood of pale light was sparkling upon its stony surface. Below, the minarets became pillars of silver, and the cloisters, dimly streaked by oil lamps, bounded the views of the temple with horizontal lines of shade.

Before nightfall the boy Mohammed rose to feed the Mosque pigeons, for whom he had brought a pocketful of barley. He went to the place where these birds flock — the line of pavement leading from the isolated arch to the Eastern cloisters. During the day women and children are to be seen sitting here, with small piles of grain upon little plaited trays of basket-work. For each they demand a copper piece; and religious pilgrims consider it their duty to provide the reverend blue-rocks with a plentiful meal.

The Hindu Pandits assert that Shiwa and his spouse, under the forms and names of Kapot-Eshwara (pigeon god) and Kapotesi, dwelt at Meccah. The dove was the device of the old Assyrian Empire, because it is supposed Semiramis was preserved by that bird. The Meccan pigeons, resembling those of Venice, are held sacred probably in consequence of the wild traditions of the Arabs about Noah’s dove. Some authors declare that in Mohammed’s time, among the idols of the Meccan Pantheon, was a pigeon carved in wood, and above it another, which Ali, mounting upon the Prophet’s shoulder, pulled down. This might have been a Hindu, a Jewish, or a Christian symbol. The Moslems connect the pigeon on two occasions with their faith: first, when that bird appeared to whisper in Mohammed’s ear; and, secondly, during the flight to Al-Madinah. Moreover, in many countries they are called “Allah’s Proclaimers,” because their movement when cooing resembles prostration.

Almost everywhere the pigeon has entered into the history of religion, which probably induced Mr. Lascelles to incur the derision of our grandfathers by pronouncing it a “holy bird.” At Meccah they are called the doves of the Ka’abah, and they never appear at table. They are remarkable for propriety when sitting upon the holy building. This may be a minor miracle: I would rather believe that there is some contrivance on the roof. My friend Mr. Bicknell remarks: “This marvel, however, having of late years been suspended, many discern another omen of the approach of the long-predicted period when unbelievers shall desecrate the sacred soil.”

Late in the evening I saw a negro in the state called Malbus — religious frenzy. To all appearance a Takruri, he was a fine and a powerful man, as the numbers required to hold him testified. He threw his arms wildly about him, uttering shrill cries, which sounded like le le le le! and when held, he swayed his body, and waved his head from side to side, like a chained and furious elephant, straining out the deepest groans. The Africans appear unusually subject to this nervous state which, seen by the ignorant and the imaginative, would at once suggest “demoniacal possession.18” Either their organisation is more impressionable, or more probably, the hardships, privations, and fatigues endured whilst wearily traversing inhospitable wilds, and perilous seas, have exalted their imaginations to a pitch bordering upon frenzy. Often they are seen prostrate on the pavement, or clinging to the curtain, or rubbing their foreheads upon the stones, weeping bitterly, and pouring forth the wildest ejaculations.

That night I stayed in the Harim till two A.M., wishing to see if it would be empty. But the morrow was to witness the egress to Arafat; many, therefore, passed the hours of darkness in the Harim. Numerous parties of pilgrims sat upon their rugs, with lanterns in front of them, conversing, praying, and contemplating the Ka’abah. The cloisters were full of merchants, who resorted there to “talk shop,” and to vend such holy goods as combs, tooth-sticks, and rosaries. Before ten P.M. I found no opportunity of praying the usual two prostrations over the grave of Ishmael. After waiting long and patiently, at last I was stepping into the vacant place, when another pilgrim rushed forward; the boy Mohammed, assisted by me, instantly seized him, and, despite his cries and struggles, taught him to wait. Till midnight we sat chatting with the different ciceroni who came up to offer their services. I could not help remarking their shabby and dirty clothes, and was informed that during pilgrimage, when splendour is liable to be spoiled, they wear out old dresses; and appear endimanches for the Muharram fete, when most travellers have left the city. Presently my two companions, exhausted with fatigue, fell asleep; I went up to the Ka’abah, with the intention of “annexing” a bit of the torn old Kiswat or curtain, but too many eyes were looking on. At this season of the year the Kiswat is much tattered at the base, partly by pilgrims’ fingers, and partly by the strain of the cord which confines it when the wind is blowing. It is considered a mere peccadillo to purloin a bit of the venerable stuff; but as the officers of the temple make money by selling it, they certainly would visit detection with an unmerciful application of the quarterstaff. The piece in my possession was given to me by the boy Mohammed before I left Meccah. Waistcoats cut out of the Kiswah still make the combatants invulnerable in battle, and are considered presents fit for princes. The Moslems generally try to secure a strip of this cloth as a mark for the Koran, or for some such purpose. The opportunity, however, was favourable for a survey, and with a piece of tape, and the simple processes of stepping and spanning, I managed to measure all the objects concerning which I was curious.

At last sleep began to weigh heavily upon my eyelids. I awoke my companions, and in the dizziness of slumber they walked with me through the tall narrow street from the Bab al-Ziyadah to our home in the Shamiyah. The brilliant moonshine prevented our complaining, as other travellers have had reason to do, of the darkness and the difficulty of Meccah’s streets. The town, too, appeared safe; there were no watchmen, and yet people slept everywhere upon cots placed opposite their open doors. Arrived at the house, we made some brief preparations for snatching a few hours’ sleep upon the Mastabah, a place so stifling, that nothing but utter exhaustion could induce lethargy there.

1 The Egyptian word is generally pronounced “Zaghrutah,” the plural is Zagharit, corrupted to Ziraleet. The classical Arabic term is “Tahlil”; the Persians call the cry “Kil.” It is peculiar to women, and is formed by raising the voice to its highest pitch, vibrating it at the same time by rolling the tongue, whose modulations express now joy, now grief. To my ear it always resembled the brain-piercing notes of a fife. Dr. Buchanan likens it to a serpent uttering human sounds. The “unsavoury comparison,” however, may owe its origin to the circumstance that Dr. Buchanan heard it at the orgies of Jagannath.

2 As an Indian is called “Miyan,” sir, an elderly Indian becomes “bara Miyan,” great or ancient sir. I shall have occasion to speak at a future period of these Indians at Meccah.

3 “Sitt al-Kabirah,” or simply “Al-Kabirah,” the Great Lady, is the title given to the mistress of. the house.

4 This hill bounds Meccah on the East. According to many Moslems, Adam, with his wife and his son Seth, lie buried in a cave here. Others place his tomb at Muna; the Majority at Najaf. The early Christians had a tradition that our first parents were interred under Mount Calvary; the Jews place their grave near Hebron. Habil (Abel), it is well known, is supposed to be entombed at Damascus; and Kabil (Cain) rests at last under Jabal Shamsan, the highest wall of the Aden crater, where he and his progeny, tempted by Iblis, erected the first fire-temple. It certainly deserves to be the sepulchre of the first murderer. The worship, however, was probably imported from India, where Agni (the fire god) was, as the Vedas prove, the object of man’s earliest adoration.

5 The popular legend of this gate is, that when Abraham and his son were ordered to rebuild the Ka’abah, they found the spot occupied by an old woman. She consented to remove her house on condition that the key of the new temple should be entrusted to her and to her descendants for ever and ever. The origin of this is, that Benu Shaybah means the “sons of an old woman” as well as “descendants of Shaybah.” And history tells us that the Benu Shaybah are derived from one Shaybah (bin Osman, bin Talhah, bin Shaybah, bin Talhah, bin Abd al-Dar), who was sent by Mu’awiyah to make some alterations in the Ka’abah. According to others, the Ka’abah key was committed to the charge of Osman bin Talhah by the Prophet.

6 The Moslem in circumambulation presents his left shoulder; the Hindu’s Pradakshina consists in walking round with the right side towards the fane or idol. Possibly the former may be a modification of the latter, which would appear to be the original form of the rite. Its conjectural significance is an imitation of the procession of the heavenly bodies, the motions of the spheres, and the dances of the angels. These are also imitated in the circular whirlings of the Darwayshes. And Al-Shahristani informs us that the Arab philosophers believed this sevenfold circumambulation to be symbolical of the motion of the planets round the sun. It was adopted by the Greeks and Romans, whose Ambarvalia and Amburbalia appear to be eastern superstitions, introduced by Numa, or by the priestly line of princes, into their pantheism. And our processions round the parish preserve the form of the ancient rites, whose life is long since fled. Moslem moralists have not failed to draw spiritual food from this mass of materialism. “To circuit the Bayt Ullah,” said the Pir Raukhan (As. Soc. vol. xi. and Dabistan, vol. iii., “Miyan Bayazid”), “and to be free from wickedness, and crime, and quarrels, is the duty enjoined by religion. But to circuit the house of the friend of Allah (i.e. the heart), to combat bodily propensities, and to worship the Angels, is the business of the (mystic) path.” Thus Sa’adi, in his sermons — which remind the Englishman of “poor Yorick,”—“He who travels to the Ka’abah on foot makes a circuit of the Ka’abah, but he who performs the pilgrimage of the Ka’abah in his heart is encircled by the Ka’abah.” And the greatest Moslem divines sanction this visible representation of an invisible and heavenly shrine, by declaring that, without a material medium, it is impossible for man to worship the Eternal Spirit.

7 The Mutawwif, or Dalil, is the guide at Meccah.

8 In A.D. 1674 some wretch smeared the Black Stone with impurity, and every one who kissed it retired with a sullied beard. The Persians, says Burckhardt, were suspected of this sacrilege, and now their ill-fame has spread far; at Alexandria they were described to me as a people who defile the Ka’abah. It is scarcely necessary to say that a Shi’ah, as well as a Sunni, would look upon such an action with lively horror. The people of Meccah, however, like the Madani, have turned the circumstance to their own advantage, and make an occasional “avanie.” Thus, nine or ten years ago, on the testimony of a boy who swore that he saw the inside of the Ka’abah defiled by a Persian, they rose up, cruelly beat the schismatics, and carried them off to their peculiar quarter the Shamiyah, forbidding their ingress to the Ka’abah. Indeed, till Mohammed Ali’s time, the Persians rarely ventured upon a pilgrimage, and even now that man is happy who gets over it without a beating. The defilement of the Black Stone was probably the work of some Jew or Greek, who risked his life to gratify a furious bigotry.

9 Prayer is granted at fourteen places besides Al-Multazem, viz.:—

1. At the place of circumambulation.
2. Under the Mizab, or spout of the Ka’abah.
3. Inside the Ka’abah.
4. At the well Zemzem.
5. Behind Abraham’s place of prayer.
6 and 7. On Mounts Safa and Marwah.
8. During the ceremony called “Al-Sai.”
9. Upon Mount Arafat.
10. At Muzdalifah.
11. In Muna.
12. During the devil-stoning.
13. On first seeing the Ka’abah.
14. At the Hatim or Hijr.

10 The former is the 109th, the latter the 112th chapter of the Koran (I have translated it in a previous volume).

11 These superstitions, I must remark, belong only to the vulgar.

12 Strictly speaking we ought, after this, to have performed the ceremony called Al-Sai, or the running seven times between Mounts Safa and Marwah. Fatigue put this fresh trial completely out of the question.

13 I have been diffuse in my description of this vestibule, as it is the general way of laying out a ground-floor at Meccah. During the pilgrimage time the lower hall is usually converted into a shop for the display of goods, especially when situated in a populous quarter.

14 This is equivalent to throwing oneself upon the sofa in Europe. Only in the East it asserts a decided claim to superiority; the West would scarcely view it in that light.

15 Ibn Haukal begins his cosmography with Meccah “because the temple of the Lord is situated there, and the holy Ka’abah is the navel of the earth, and Meccah is styled in sacred writ the parent city, or the mother of towns.” Unfortunately, Ibn Haukal, like most other Moslem travellers and geographers, says no more about Meccah.

16 To distinguish it from the Jiyad (above the cemetery Al-Ma’ala) over which Khalid entered Meccah. Some topographers call the Jiyad upon which the fort is built “the lesser,” and apply “greater” to Jiyad Amir, the hill north of Meccah.

17 The Meccans, however, do not fail to boast of its strength; and has stood some sieges.

18 In the Mandal, or palm-divination, a black slave is considered the best subject. European travellers have frequently remarked their nervous sensibility. In Abyssinia the maladies called “bouda” and “tigritiya” appear to depend upon some obscure connection between a weak impressionable brain and the strong will of a feared and hated race — the blacksmiths.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31