IBN ABBAS has informed the world that when the eighty individuals composing Noah’s family issued from the ark, they settled at a place distant ten marches and twelve parasangs1 (thirty-six to forty-eight miles) from Babel or Babylon. There they increased and multiplied, and spread into a mighty empire. At length under the rule of Namrud (Nimrod), son of Kanaan (Canaan), son of Ham, they lapsed from the worship of the true God: a miracle dispersed them into distant parts of the earth, and they were further broken up by the one primaeval language being divided into seventy-two dialects.
A tribe called Aulad Sam bin Nuh (the children of Shem), or Amalikah and Amalik,2 from their ancestor Amlak bin Arfakhshad bin Sam bin Nuh, was inspired with a knowledge of the Arabic tongue3: it settled at Al-Madinah, and was the first to cultivate the ground and to plant palm-trees. In course of time these people extended over the whole tract between the seas of Al-Hijaz (the Red Sea) and Al-Oman, (north-western part of the Indian Ocean), and they became the progenitors of the Jababirah4 (tyrants or “giants”) of Syria, as well as the Farainah (Pharaohs) of Egypt.5 Under these Amalik such was the age of man that during the space of four hundred years a bier would not be seen, nor “keening” be heard, in their cities.
The last king of the Amalik, “Arkam bin al-Arkam,6” was, according to most authors, slain by an army of the children of Israel sent by Moses after the Exodus,7 with orders thoroughly to purge Meccah and Al-Madinah of their Infidel inhabitants. All the tribe was destroyed, with the exception of the women, the children, and a youth of the royal family, whose extraordinary beauty persuaded the invaders to spare him pending a reference to the Prophet. When the army returned, they found that Moses had died during the expedition, and they were received with reproaches by the people for having violated his express command. The soldiers, unwilling to live with their own nation under this reproach, returned to Al-Hijaz, and settled there.
Moslem authors are agreed that after the Amalik the Benu Israel ruled in the Holy Land of Arabia, but the learned in history are not agreed upon the cause of their emigration. According to some, when Moses was returning from a pilgrimage to Meccah, a multitude of his followers, seeing in Al-Madinah the signs of the city which, according to the Taurat, or Pentateuch, should hear the preaching of the last Prophet, settled there, and were joined by many Badawin of the neighbourhood who conformed to the law of Moses. Ibn Shaybah also informs us that when Moses and Aaron were wending northwards from Meccah, they, being in fear of certain Jews settled at Al-Madinah, did not enter the city,8 but pitched their tents on Mount Ohod. Aaron being about to die, Moses dug his tomb, and said, “Brother, thine hour is come! turn thy face to the next world!” Aaron entered the grave, lay at full length, and immediately expired; upon which the Jewish lawgiver covered him with earth, and went his way towards the Promised Land.9
Abu Hurayrah asserted that the Benu Israel, after long searching, settled in Al-Madinah, because, when driven from Palestine by the invasion of Bukht al-Nasr (Nebuchadnezzar), they found in their books that the last Prophet would manifest himself in a town of the towns of Arabiyah,10 called Zat Nakhl, or the “Place of Palm trees.” Some of the sons of Aaron occupied the city; other tribes settled at Khaybar,11 and in the neighbourhood, building “Utum,” or square, flat-roofed, stone castles for habitation and defence. They left an order to their descendants that Mohammed should be favourably received, but Allah hardened their hearts unto their own destruction. Like asses they turned their backs upon Allah’s mercy,12 and the consequence is, that they have been rooted out of the land.
The Tarikh Tabari declares that when Bukht al-Nasr,13 after destroying Jerusalem, attacked and slew the king of Egypt, who had given an asylum to a remnant of the house of Israel, the persecuted fugitives made their way into Al-Hijaz, settled near Yasrib (Al-Madinah), where they founded several towns, Khaybar, Fadak, Wady al-Subu, Wady al-Kura, Kurayzah, and many others. It appears, then, by the concurrence of historians, that the Jews at an early time either colonised, or supplanted the Amalik at, Al-Madinah.
At length the Israelites fell away from the worship of the one God, who raised up against them the Arab tribes of Aus and Khazraj, the progenitors of modern Ansar. Both these tribes claimed a kindred origin, and Al-Yaman as the land of their nativity. The circumstances of their emigration are thus described. The descendants of Yarab bin Kahtan bin Shalik bin Arkfakhshad bin Sam bin Nuh, kinsmen to the Amalik, inhabited in prosperity the land of Saba.14 Their sway extended two months’ journey from the dyke of Mareb,15 near the modern capital of Al-Yaman, as far as Syria, and incredible tales are told of their hospitality and of the fertility of their land. As usual, their hearts were perverted by prosperity. They begged Allah to relieve them from the troubles of extended empire and the duties of hospitality by diminishing their possessions. The consequence of their impious supplications was the well-known Flood of Iram.
The chief of the descendants of Kahtan bin Saba, one of the ruling families in Al-Yaman, was one Amru bin Amin Ma al-Sama,16 called “Al-Muzaykayh” from his rending in pieces every garment once worn. His wife Tarikah Himyariah, being skilled in divination, foresaw the fatal event, and warned her husband, who, unwilling to break from his tribe without an excuse, contrived the following stratagem. He privily ordered his adopted son, an orphan to dispute with him, and to strike him in the face at a feast composed of the principal persons in the kingdom. The disgrace of such a scene afforded him a pretext for selling off his property, and, followed by his thirteen sons, — all borne to him by his wife Tarikah, — and others of the tribe, Amru emigrated Northwards. The little party, thus preserved from the Yamanian Deluge, was destined by Allah to become the forefathers of the Auxiliaries of his chosen Apostle.
All the children of Amru thus dispersed into different parts of Arabia. His eldest son, Salabah bin Amru, chose Al-Hijaz, settled at Al-Madinah, then in the hands of the impious Benu Israel, and became the father of the Aus and Khazraj. In course of time, the new comers were made by Allah an instrument of vengeance against the disobedient Jews. Of the latter people, the two tribes Kurayzah and Nazir claimed certain feudal rights (well known to Europe) upon all occasions of Arab marriages. The Aus and the Khazraj, after enduring this indignity for a time, at length had recourse to one of their kinsmen who, when the family dispersed, had settled in Syria. Abu Jubaylah, thus summoned, marched an army to Al-Madinah, avenged the honour of his blood, and destroyed the power of the Jews, who from that moment became Mawali, or clients to the Arabs.
For a time the tribes of Aus and Khazraj, freed from the common enemy, lived in peace and harmony. At last they fell into feuds and fought with fratricidal strife, until the coming of the Prophet effected a reconciliation between them. This did not take place, however, before the Khazraj received, at the battle of Buas (about A.D. 615), a decided defeat from the Aus.
It is also related, to prove how Al-Madinah was predestined to a high fate, that nearly three centuries before the siege of the town by Abu Jubaylah, the Tobba al-Asghar17 marched Northward, at the requisition of the Aus and Khazraj tribes, in order to punish the Jews; or, according to others, at the request of the Jews to revenge them upon the Aus and Khazraj. After capturing the town, he left one of his sons to govern it, and marched onwards to conquer Syria and Al-Irak.
Suddenly informed that the people of Al-Madinah had treacherously murdered their new prince, the exasperated Tobba returned and attacked the place; and, when his horse was killed under him, he swore that he would never decamp before razing it to the ground. Whereupon two Jewish priests, Ka’ab and Assayd, went over to him and informed him that it was not in the power of man to destroy the town, it being preserved by Allah, as their books proved, for the refuge of His Prophet, the descendant of Ishmael.18
The Tobba Judaized. Taking four hundred of the priests with him, he departed from Al-Madinah, performed pilgrimage to the Ka’abah of Meccah, which he invested with a splendid covering19; and, after erecting a house for the expected Prophet, he returned to his capital in Al-Yaman, where he abolished idolatry by the ordeal of fire. He treated his priestly guests with particular attention, and on his death-bed he wrote the following tetrastich:—
“I testify of Ahmad that he of a truth
Is a prophet from Allah, the Maker of souls.
Be my age extended into his age,
I would be to him a Wazir and a cousin.”
Then sealing the paper he committed it to the charge of the High Priest, with a solemn injunction to deliver the letter, should an opportunity offer, into the hands of the great Prophet; and that, if the day be distant, the missive should be handed down from generation to generation till it reached the person to whom it was addressed. The house founded by him at Al-Madinah was committed to a priest of whose descendants was Abu Ayyub the Ansari, the first person over whose threshold the Apostle passed when he ended the Flight. Abu Ayyub had also charge of the Tobba’s letter, so that after three or four centuries, it arrived at its destination.
Al-Madinah was ever well inclined to Mohammed. In20 the early part of his career, the emissaries of a tribe called the Benu Abd al-Ashhal came from that town to Meccah, in order to make a treaty with the Kuraysh, and the Apostle seized the opportunity of preaching Al-Islam to them. His words were seconded by Ayyas bin Ma’az, a youth of the tribe, and opposed by the chiefs of the embassy; who, however, returned home without pledging themselves to either party.21 Shortly afterwards a body of the Aus and the Khazraj came to the pilgrimage of Meccah: when Mohammed began preaching to them, they recognised the person so long expected by the Jews, and swore to him an oath which is called in Moslem history the “First Fealty of the Steep.22”
After the six individuals who had thus pledged themselves returned to their native city, the event being duly bruited abroad caused such an effect that, when the next pilgrimage season came, twelve, or according to others forty persons, led by As’ad bin Zara[r]ah, accompanied the original converts, and in the same place swore the “Second Fealty of the Steep.” The Prophet dismissed them in company with one Musab bin Umayr, a Meccan, charged to teach them the Koran and their religious duties, which in those times consisted only of prayer and the Profession of Unity. They arrived at Al-Madinah on a Friday, and this was the first day on which the city witnessed the public devotions of the Moslems.
After some persecutions, Musab had the fortune to convert a cousin of As’ad bin Zararah, a chief of the Aus, Sa’ad bin Ma’az, whose opposition had been of the fiercest. He persuaded his tribe, the Benu Abd al-Ashhal, to break their idols and openly to profess Al-Islam. The next season, Musab having made many converts, some say seventy, others three hundred, marched from Al-Madinah to Meccah for their pilgrimage; and there induced his followers to meet the Prophet at midnight upon the Steep near Muna. Mohammed preached to them their duties towards Allah and himself, especially insisting upon the necessity of warring down infidelity. They pleaded ancient treaties with the Jews of Al-Madinah, and showed apprehension lest the Apostle, after bringing them into disgrace with their fellows, should desert them and return to the faith of his kinsmen, the Kuraysh. Mohammed, smiling, comforted them with the assurance that he was with them, body and soul, for ever. Upon this they asked him what would be their reward if slain. He replied, “Gardens ’neath which the streams flow,” — that is to say, Paradise.
Then, in spite of the advice of Al-Abbas, Mohammed’s uncle, who was loud in his denunciations, they bade the Preacher stretch out his hand, and upon it swore the oath known as the “Great Fealty of the Steep.” After comforting them with an Ayat, or Koranic verse, which promised heaven, the Apostle divided his followers into twelve bodies; and placing a chief at the head of each,23 dismissed them to their homes. He rejected the offer made by one of the party-namely, to slay all the idolaters present at the pilgrimage-saying that Allah had favoured him with no such order. For the same reason he refused their invitation to visit Al-Madinah, which was the principal object of their mission; and he then took an affectionate leave of them.
Two months and a half after the events above detailed, Mohammed received the inspired tidings that Al-Madinah of the Hijaz was his predestined asylum. In anticipation of the order, for as yet the time had not been revealed, he sent forward his friends, among whom were Omar, Talhah, and Hamzah, retaining with him Abu Bakr24 and Ali. The particulars of the Flight, that eventful accident to Al-Islam, are too well known to require mention here; besides which they belong rather to the category of general than of Madinite history.
Mohammed was escorted into Al-Madinah by one Buraydat al-Aslami and eighty men of the same tribe, who had been offered by the Kuraysh a hundred camels for the capture of the fugitives. But Buraydat, after listening to their terms, accidentally entered into conversation with Mohammed; and no sooner did he hear the name of his interlocutor, than he professed the faith of Al-Islam. He then prepared for the Apostle a standard by attaching his turband to a spear, and anxiously inquired what house was to be honoured by the presence of Allah’s chosen servant. “Whichever,” replied Mohammed, “this she-camel25 is ordered to show me.” At the last halting-place, he accidentally met some of his disciples returning from a trading voyage to Syria; they dressed him and his companion Abu Bakr in white clothing which, it is said, caused the people of Kuba to pay a mistaken reverence to the latter. The Moslems of Al-Madinah were in the habit of repairing every morning to the heights near the city, looking out for the Apostle; and, when the sun waxed hot, they returned home. One day, about noon, a Jew, who discovered the retinue from afar, suddenly warned the nearest party of Ansar, or Auxiliaries of Al-Madinah, that the fugitive was come. They snatched up their arms and hurried from their houses to meet him.
Mohammed’s she-camel advanced to the centre of the then flourishing town of Kuba. There she suddenly knelt upon a place which is now consecrated ground; at that time it was an open space, belonging, they say, to Abu Ayyub the Ansari, who had a house there near the abodes of the Benu Amr bin Auf. This event happened on the first day of the week, the twelfth of the month Rabia al-Awwal26 (June 28, A.D. 622), in the first year of the Flight: for which reason Monday, which also witnessed the birth, the mission, and the death of the Prophet, is an auspicious day to Al-Islam.
After halting two days in the house of Kulsum bin Hadmah at Kuba, and there laying the foundation of the first Mosque upon the lines where his she-camel trod, the Apostle was joined by Ali, who had remained at Meccah, for the purpose of returning certain trusts and deposits committed to Mohammed’s charge. He waited three days longer; on Friday morning (the 16th Rabia al-Awwal, A.H. 1,=2nd July, A.D. 622), about sunrise he mounted Al-Kaswa, and, accompanied by a throng of armed Ansar on foot and on horseback, he took the way to the city. At the hour of public prayer,27 he halted in the Wady or valley near Kuba, upon the spot where the Masjid al-Jum’ah now stands, performed his devotions, and preached an eloquent sermon. He then remounted. Numbers pressed forward to offer him hospitality; he blessed them, and bade them stand out of the way, declaring that Al-Kaswa would halt of her own accord at the predestined spot. He then advanced to where the Apostle’s pulpit now stands. There the she-camel knelt, and the rider exclaimed, as one inspired, “This is our place, if Almighty Allah please!”
Descending from Al-Kaswa, he recited, “O Lord, cause me to alight a good Alighting, and Thou art the Best of those who cause to alight!” Presently the camel rose unaided, advanced a few steps, and then, according to some, returning, sat down upon her former seat; according to others, she knelt at the door of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, whose abode in those days was the nearest to the halting-place. The descendant of the Jewish High Priest in the time of the Tobbas, with the Apostle’s permission, took the baggage off the camel, and carried it into his house. Then ensued great rejoicings. The Abyssinians came and played with their spears. The maidens of the Benu Najjar tribe sang and beat their kettle-drums. And all the wives of the Ansar celebrated with shrill cries of joy the auspicious event; whilst the males, young and old, freemen and slaves, shouted with effusion, “Allah’s Messenger is come! Allah’s Messenger is here!”
Mohammed caused Abu Ayyub and his wife to remove into the upper story, contenting himself with the humbler lower rooms. This was done for the greater convenience of receiving visitors without troubling the family; but the master of the house was thereby rendered uncomfortable in mind. His various remarks about the Apostle’s diet and domestic habits, especially his avoiding leeks, onions, and garlic,28 are gravely chronicled by Moslem authors.
After spending seven months, more or less, at the house of Abu Ayyub, Mohammed, now surrounded by his wives and family, built, close to the Mosque, huts for their reception. The ground was sold to him by Sahal and Suhayl, two orphans of the Benu Najjar,29 a noble family of the Khazraj. Some time afterwards one Harisat bin al-Nu’uman presented to the Prophet all his houses in the vicinity of the temple. In those days the habitations of the Arabs were made of a framework of Jarid or palm sticks, covered over with a cloth of camel’s hair, a curtain of similar stuff forming the door. The more splendid had walls of unbaked brick, and roofs of palm fronds plastered over with mud or clay. Of this description were the abodes of Mohammed’s family. Most of them were built on the North and East of the Mosque, which had open ground on the Western side; and the doors looked towards the place of prayer. In course of time, all, except Abu Bakr30 and Ali, were ordered to close their doors, and even Omar was refused the favour of having a window opening into the temple.
Presently the Jews of Al-Madinah, offended by the conduct of Abdullah bin Salam, their most learned priest and a descendant from the Patriarch Joseph, who had become a convert to the Moslem dispensation, began to plot against Mohammed.31 They were headed by Hajj bin Akhtah, and his brother Yasir bin Akhtah, and were joined by many of the Aus and the Khazraj. The events that followed this combination of the Munafikun, or Hypocrites, under their chief, Abdullah, belong to the domain of Arabian history.32
Mohammed spent the last ten years of his life at Al-Madinah. He died on Monday, some say at nine A.M., others at noon, others a little after, on the twelfth of Rabia al-Awwal in the eleventh year of the Hijrah. When his family and companions debated where he should be buried, Ali advised Al-Madinah, and Abu Bakr, Ayishah’s chamber, quoting a saying of the deceased that prophets and martyrs are always interred where they happen to die. The Apostle was placed, it is said, under the bed where he had given up the ghost, by Ali and the two sons of Abbas, who dug the grave. With the life of Mohammed the interest of Al-Madinah ceases, or rather is concentrated in the history of its temple. Since then the city has passed through the hands of the Caliphs, the Sharifs of Meccah, the Sultans of Constantinople, the Wahhabis, and the Egyptians. It has now reverted to the Sultan, whose government is beginning to believe that, in these days when religious prestige is of little value, the great Khan’s title, “Servant of the Holy Shrines,” is purchased at too high a price. As has before been observed, the Turks now struggle for existence in Al-Hijaz with a soldier ever in arrears, and officers unequal to the task of managing an unruly people. The pensions are but partly paid,33 and they are not likely to increase with years. It is probably a mere consideration of interest that prevents the people rising en masse, and re-asserting the liberties of their country. And I have heard from authentic sources that the Wahhabis look forward to the day when a fresh crusade will enable them to purge the land of its abominations in the shape of silver and gold.
The Masjid al-Nabi, or Prophet’s Mosque, is the second in Al-Islam in point of seniority, and the second, or, according to others, the first in dignity, ranking with the Ka’abah itself. It is erected around the spot where the she-camel, Al-Kaswa, knelt down by the order of Heaven. At that time the land was a palm grove and a Mirbad, or place where dates are dried. Mohammed, ordered to erect a place of worship there, sent for the youths to whom it belonged, and certain Ansar, or Auxiliaries, their guardians; the ground was offered to him in free gift, but he insisted upon purchasing it, paying more than its value. Having caused the soil to be levelled and the trees to be felled, he laid the foundation of the first Mosque.
In those times of primitive simplicity its walls were made of rough stone and unbaked bricks: trunks of date-trees supported a palm-stick roof, concerning which the Archangel Gabriel delivered an order that it should not be higher than seven cubits, the elevation of Moses’s temple. All ornament was strictly forbidden. The Ansar, or men of Al-Madinah, and the Muhajirin, or Fugitives from Meccah, carried the building materials in their arms from the cemetery Al-Bakia, near the well of Ayyub, north of the spot where Ibrahim’s Mosque now stands, and the Apostle was to be seen aiding them in their labours, and reciting for their encouragement,
“O Allah! there is no good but the good of futurity,
Then have mercy upon my Ansar and Muhajirin!”
The length of this Mosque was fifty-four cubits from North to South, and sixty-three in breadth, and it was hemmed in by houses on all sides save the Western. Till the seventeenth month of the new aera the congregation faced towards the Northern wall. After that time a fresh revelation turned them in the direction of Meccah, Southwards: on which occasion the Archangel Gabriel descended and miraculously opened through the hills and wilds a view of the Ka’abah, that there might be no difficulty in ascertaining its true position.
After the capture of Khaybar in A.H. 7, the Prophet and his first three successors restored the Mosque, but Moslem historians do not consider this a second foundation. Mohammed laid the first brick, and Abu Hurayrah declares that he saw him carry heaps of building materials piled up to his breast. The Caliphs, each in the turn of his succession, placed a brick close to that laid by the Prophet, and aided him in raising the walls. Al-Tabrani relates that one of the Ansar had a house adjacent which Mohammed wished to make part of the place of prayer; the proprietor was promised in exchange for it a home in Paradise, which he gently rejected, pleading poverty. His excuse was admitted, and Osman, after purchasing the place for ten thousand dirhams, gave it to the Apostle on the long credit originally offered.
This Mosque was a square of a hundred cubits. Like the former building, it had three doors: one on the South side, where the Mihrab al-Nabawi, or the “Prophet’s Niche,” now is; another in the place of the present Bab al-Rahmah; and the third at the Bab Osman, now called the Gate of Gabriel. Instead of a Mihrab or prayer-niche,34 a large block of stone directed the congregation; at first it was placed against the Northern wall of the Mosque, and it was removed to the Southern when Meccah became the Kiblah.
In the beginning the Prophet, whilst preaching the Khutbah or Friday sermon, leaned when fatigued against a post.35 The Mambar,36 or pulpit, was the invention of a Madinah man, of the Benu Najjar. It was a wooden frame, two cubits long by one broad, with three steps, each one span high; on the topmost of these the Prophet sat when he required rest. The pulpit assumed its present form about A.H. 90, during the artistic reign of Al-Walid.
In this Mosque Mohammed spent the greater part of the day37 with his companions, conversing, instructing, and comforting the poor. Hard by were the abodes of his wives, his family, and his principal friends. Here he prayed, at the call of the Azan, or devotion-cry, from the roof. Here he received worldly envoys and embassies, and the heavenly messages conveyed by the Archangel Gabriel. And within a few yards of the hallowed spot, he died, and found a grave.
The theatre of events so important to Al-Islam could not be allowed-specially as no divine decree forbade the change-to remain in its pristine lowliness. The first Caliph contented himself with merely restoring some of the palm pillars, which had fallen to the ground: Omar, the second successor, surrounded the Hujrah, or Ayishah’s chamber, in which the Prophet was buried, with a mud wall; and in A.H. 17, he enlarged the Mosque to 140 cubits by 120, taking in ground on all sides except the Eastern, where stood the abodes of the “Mothers of the Moslems.38” Outside the Northern wall he erected a Suffah, called Al-Batha-a raised bench of wood, earth, or stone, upon which the people might recreate themselves with conversation and quoting poetry, for the Mosque was now becoming [a] place of peculiar reverence to men.39
The second Masjid was erected A.H. 29, by the third Caliph, Osman, who, regardless of the clamours of the people, overthrew the old walls and extended the building greatly towards the North, and a little towards the West; but he did not remove the Eastern limit on account of the private houses. He made the roof of Indian teak,40 and the walls of hewn and carved stone. These innovations caused some excitement, which he allayed by quoting a tradition of the Prophet, with one of which he appears perpetually to have been prepared. The saying in question was, according to some, “Were this my Mosque extended to Safa” — a hill in Meccah — “it verily would still be my Mosque”; according to others, “Were the Prophet’s Mosque extended to Zu’l Halifah41 it would still be his.” But Osman’s skill in the quotation of tradition did not prevent the new building being in part a cause of his death. It was finished on the first Muharram, A.H. 30.
At length, Al-Islam, grown splendid and powerful, determined to surpass other nations in the magnificence of its public buildings.42 In A.H. 88, Al-Walid43 the First, twelfth Caliph of the Benu Ummayah race, after building, or rather restoring, the noble “Jami’ al-Ammawi” (cathedral of the Ommiades) at Damascus, determined to display his liberality at Al-Madinah. The governor of the place, Umar bin Abd Al-Aziz, was directed to buy for seven thousand Dinars (ducats) all the hovels of raw brick that hedged in the Eastern side of the old Mosque. They were inhabited by descendants of the Prophet and of the early Caliphs, and in more than one case, the ejection of the holy tenantry was effected with considerable difficulty. Some of the women-ever the most obstinate on such occasions-refused to take money, and Omar was forced to the objectionable measure of turning them out of doors with exposed faces44 in full day. The Greek Emperor, applied to by the magnificent Caliph, sent immense presents, silver lamp chains, valuable curiosities,45 forty loads of small cut stones for pietra-dura, and a sum of eighty thousand Dinars, or, as others say, forty thousand Miskals of gold. He also despatched forty Coptic and forty Greek artists to carve the marble pillars and the casings of the walls, and to superintend the gilding and the mosaic work. One of these Christians was beheaded for sculpturing a hog on the Kiblah wall; and another, in an attempt to defile the roof, fell to the ground, and his brains were dashed out. The remainder Islamized, but this did not prevent the older Arabs murmuring that their Mosque had been turned into a Kanisah, a Christian idol-house.
The Hujrah, or chamber, where, by Mohammed’s permission, Azrail, the Angel of Death, separated his soul from his body, whilst his head was lying in the lap of Ayishah, his favourite wife, was now for the first time taken into the Mosque. The raw-brick enceinte46 which surrounded the three graves was exchanged for one of carved stone, enclosed by an outer precinct with a narrow passage between.47 These double walls were either without a door, or had only a small blocked-up wicket on the Northern side, and from that day (A.H. 90), no one, says Al-Samanhudi, has been able to approach the sepulchre.48 A minaret was erected at each corner of the Mosque.49 The building was enlarged to 200 cubits by 167, and was finished in A.H. 91. When Al-Walid, the Caliph, visited it in state, he inquired of his lieutenant why greater magnificence had not been displayed in the erection; upon which Omar, the governor, informed him, to his astonishment, that the walls alone had cost forty-five thousand ducats.50
The fourth Mosque was erected in A.H. 191, by Al-Mahdi, third prince of the Benu Abbas or Baghdad Caliphs-celebrated in history only for spending enormous sums upon a pilgrimage. He enlarged the building by adding ten handsome pillars of carved marble, with gilt capitals, on the Northern side. In A.H. 202, Al-Ma’amun made further additions to this Mosque. It was from Al-Mahdi’s Masjid that Al-Hakim bi’Amri ’llah, the third Fatimite Caliph of Egypt, and the deity of the Druze sect, determined to steal the bodies of the Prophet and his two companions. About A.H. 412, he sent emissaries to Al-Madinah: the attempt, however, failed, and the would-be violators of the tomb lost their lives. It is generally supposed that Al-Hakim’s object was to transfer the Visitation to his own capital; but in one so manifestly insane it is difficult to discover the spring of action. Two Christians, habited like Maghrabi pilgrims, in A.H. 550, dug a mine from a neighbouring house into the temple. They were discovered, beheaded, and burned to ashes. In relating these events the Moslem historians mix up many foolish preternaturalisms with credible matter. At last, to prevent a recurrence of such sacrilegious attempts, Al-Malik al-Adil Nur al-Din of the Baharite Mamluk Sultans, or, according to others, Sultan Nur al-Din Shahid Mahmud bin Zangi, who, warned by a vision of the Apostle, had started for Al-Madinah only in time to discover the two Christians, surrounded the holy place with a deep trench filled with molten lead. By this means Abu Bakr and Omar, who had run considerable risks of their own, have ever since been enabled to occupy their last homes undisturbed.
In A.H. 654, the fifth Mosque was erected in consequence of a fire, which some authors attribute to a volcano that broke out close to the town in terrible eruption51; others, with more fanaticism and less probability, to the schismatic Benu Husayn, then the guardians of the tomb. On this occasion the Hujrah was saved, together with the old and venerable copies of the Koran there deposited, especially the Cufic MSS., written by Osman, the third Caliph. The piety of three sovereigns, Al-Mustasim (last Caliph of Baghdad), Al-Muzaffar Shems al-Din Yusuf, chief of Al-Yaman, and Al-Zahir Beybars, Baharite Sultan of Egypt, completed the work in A.H. 688. This building was enlarged and beautified by the princes of Egypt, and lasted upwards of two hundred years.
The sixth Mosque was built, almost as it now stands, by Kaid-Bey, nineteenth Sultan of the Circassian Mamluk kings of Egypt, in A.H. 888: it is now therefore more than four centuries old. Al-Mustasim’s Mosque had been struck by lightning during a storm; thirteen men were killed at prayers, and the destroying element spared nothing but the interior of the Hujrah.52 The railing and dome were restored; niches and a pulpit were sent from Cairo, and the gates and minarets were distributed as they are now. Not content with this, Kaid-Bey established “Wakf” (bequests) and pensions, and introduced order among the attendants on the tomb. In the tenth century, Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent paved with fine white marble the Rauzah or garden, which Kaid-Bey, not daring to alter, had left of earth, and erected the fine minaret that bears his name.
During the dominion of the later Sultans, and of Mohammed Ali, a few trifling presents, of lamps, carpets, wax candles and chandeliers, and a few immaterial alterations, have been made. The present head of Al-Islam is, as I have before said, rebuilding one of the minarets and the Northern colonnade of the temple.
Such is the history of the Mosque’s prosperity.
During the siege of Al-Madinah by the Wahhabis,53 the principal people seized and divided amongst themselves the treasures of the tomb, which must have been considerable. When the town surrendered, Sa’ud, accompanied by his principal officers, entered the Hujrah, but, terrified by dreams, he did not penetrate behind the curtain, or attempt to see the tomb. He plundered, however, the treasures in the passage, the “Kaukab al-Durri54” (or pearl star), and the ornaments sent as presents from every part of Al-Islam. Part of these he sold, it is said, for 150,000 Riyals (dollars), to Ghalib, Sharif of Meccah, and the rest he carried with him to Daraiyah, his capital.55 An accident prevented any further desecration of the building. The greedy Wahhabis, allured by the appearance of the golden or gilt globes and crescents surmounting the green dome, attempted to throw down the latter. Two of their number, it is said, were killed by falling from the slippery roof,56 and the rest, struck by superstitious fears, abandoned the work of destruction. They injured, however, the prosperity of the place by taxing the inhabitants, by interrupting the annual remittances, and by forbidding visitors to approach the tomb. They are spoken of with abhorrence by the people, who quote a peculiarly bad trait in their characters, namely, that in return for any small religious assistance of prayer or recitation, they were in the habit of giving a few grains of gunpowder, or something equally valuable, instead of “stone-dollars.57”
When Abdullah, son of Sa’ud, had concluded in A.D. 1815 a treaty of peace with Tussun Pasha, the Egyptian General bought back from the townspeople, for 10,000 Riyals, all the golden vessels that had not been melted down, and restored the treasure to its original place. This I have heard denied; at the same time it rests upon credible evidence. Amongst Orientals the events of the last generation are, usually speaking, imperfectly remembered, and the Olema are well acquainted with the history of vicissitudes which took place 1200 years ago, when profoundly ignorant of what their grandfathers witnessed. Many incredible tales also I heard concerning the present wealth of the Al-Madinah Mosque: this must be expected when the exaggeration is considered likely to confer honour upon the exaggerator.
The establishment attached to the Al-Madinah Mosque is greatly altered since Burckhardt’s time,58 the result of the increasing influence of the Turkish half-breeds.
It is still extensive, because in the first place the principle of divided labour is a favourite throughout the East, and secondly because the Sons of the Holy Cities naturally desire to extract as much as they can from the Sons of other cities with the least amount of work. The substance of the following account was given to me by Omar Effendi, and I compared it with the information of others upon whom I could rely.
The principal of the Mosque, or Shaykh al-Harim, is no longer a neuter.59 The present is a Turkish Pasha, Osman, appointed from Constantinople with a salary of about 30,000 piastres a month. His Naib or deputy is a black eunuch, the chief of the Aghawat,60 upon a pay of 5000 piastres. The present principal of this college is one Tayfur Agha, a slave of Esma Sultanah, sister to the late Sultan Mahmud. The chief treasurer is called the Mudir al-Harim; he keeps an eye upon the Khaznadar, or treasurer, whose salary is 2000 piastres. The Mustaslim is the chief of the Katibs, or writers who settle the accounts of the Mosque; his pay is 1500, and under him is a Nakib or assistant upon 1000 piastres. There are three Shaykhs of the eunuchs who receive from 700 to 1000 piastres a month each. The eunuchs, about a hundred and twenty in number, are divided into three orders. The Bawwabin, or porters, open the doors of the Mosque. The Khubziyah sweep the purer parts of the temple, and the lowest order, popularly called “Battalin,” clean away all impurities, beat those found sleeping, and act as beadles, a duty here which involves considerable use of the cane. These men receive as perquisites presents from each visitor when they offer him the usual congratulation, and for other small favours, such as permitting strangers to light the lamps,61 or to sweep the floor. Their pay varies from 250 to 500 piastres a month: they are looked upon as honourable men, and are, generally speaking, married, some of them indulging in three or four wives, — which would have aroused Juvenal’s bile. The Agha’s character is curious and exceptional as his outward conformation. Disconnected with humanity, he is cruel, fierce, brave, and capable of any villany. His frame is unnaturally long and lean, especially the arms and legs, with high shoulders, protruding joints, and a face by contrast extraordinarily large; he is unusually expert in the use of weapons, and sitting well “home,” he rides to admiration, his hoarse, thick voice investing him with all the circumstances of command.
Besides the eunuchs, there are a number of free servants, called Farrashin, attached to the Mosque; almost all the middle and lower class of citizens belong to this order. They are divided into parties of thirty each, and are changed every week, those on duty receiving a Ghazi or twenty-two piastres for their services. Their business is to dust, and to spread the carpets, to put oil and wicks into the lamps which the eunuchs let down from the ceiling, and, generally speaking, diligently to do nothing.
Finally, the menial establishment of the Mosque consists of a Shaykh al-Sakka (chief of the water-carriers), under whom are from forty-five to fifty men who sprinkle the floors, water the garden, and, for a consideration, supply a cupful of brackish liquid to visitors.
The literary establishment is even more extensive than the executive and the menial. There is a Kazi, or chief judge, sent every year from Constantinople. After twelve months at Al-Madinah, he passes on to Meccah, and returns home after a similar term of service in the second Holy City. Under him are three Muftis,62 of the Hanafi, the Shafe’i, and the Maliki schools; the fourth, or Hanbali, is not represented here or at Cairo.63 Each of these officers receives as pay about two hundred and fifty piastres a month. The Ruasa,64 as the Mu’ezzins (prayer-callers) here call themselves, are extensively represented; there are forty-eight or forty-nine of the lowest order, presided over by six Kubar or Masters, and these again are under the Shaykh al-Ruasa, who alone has the privilege of calling to prayers from the Raisiyah minaret. The Shaykh receives a hundred and fifty piastres, the chiefs about a hundred, and the common criers sixty; there are forty-five Khatibs, who preach and pray before the congregation on Fridays for a hundred and twenty piastres a month; they are under the Shaykh al-Khutaba. About the same sum is given to seventy-five Imams, who recite the five ordinary prayers of every day in the Mosque; the Shaykh al-Aimmat is their superior.65
Almost all the citizens of Al-Madinah who have not some official charge about the temple qualify themselves to act as Muzawwirs. They begin as boys to learn the formula of prayer, and the conducting of visitors; and partly by begging, partly by boldness, they often pick up a tolerable livelihood at an early age. The Muzawwir will often receive strangers into his house, as was done to me, and direct their devotions during the whole time of their stay. For such service he requires a sum of money proportioned to his guests’ circumstances, but this fee does not end the connexion. If the Muzawwir visit the home of his Zair, he expects to be treated with the utmost hospitality, and to depart with a handsome present. A religious visitor will often transmit to his cicerone at Meccah and at Al-Madinah yearly sums to purchase for himself a prayer at the Ka’abah and the Prophet’s Tomb. The remittance is usually wrapped up in paper, and placed in a sealed leathern bag, somewhat like a portfolio, upon which is worked the name of the person entitled to receive it. It is then given in charge either to a trustworthy pilgrim, or to the public treasurer, who accompanies the principal caravans.
I could procure no exact information about the amount of money forwarded every year from Constantinople and Cairo to Al-Madinah; the only point upon which men seemed to agree was that they were defrauded of half their dues. When the Sadaka and Aukaf (the alms and bequests) arrive at the town, they are committed by the Surrah, or financier of the caravan, to the Muftis, the chief of the Khatibs, and the Kazi’s clerk. These officers form a committee, and after reckoning the total of the families entitled to pensions, divide the money amongst them, according to the number in each household, and the rank of the pensioners. They are divided into five orders:—
The Olema, or learned, and the Mudarrisin, who profess, lecture, or teach adults in the Harim.
The Imams and Khatibs.
The descendants of the Prophet.
The Fukaha, poor divines, pedadogues, gerund-grinders, who teach boys to read the Koran.
The Awam, or nobile vulgus of the Holy City, including the Ahali, or burghers of the town, and the Mujawirin, or those settled in the place.
Omar Effendi belonged to the second order, and he informed me that his share varied from three to fifteen Riyals per annum.
1 In Oriental geography the parasang still, as in the days of Pliny, greatly varies, from 1500 to 6000 yards. Captain Francklin, whose opinion is generally taken, makes it (in his Tour to Persia) a measure of about four miles (Preface to Ibn Haukal, by Sir Gore Ouseley).
2 M.C. de Perceval (Essai sur l’Histoire des Arabes avant l’Islamisme), makes Amlak son of Laoud (Lud), son of Shem, or, according to others, son of Ham. That learned writer identifies the Amalik with the Phoenicians, the Amalekites, the Canaanites, and the Hyksos. He alludes, also, to an ancient tradition which makes them to have colonised Barbary in Africa.
3 The Dabistan al-Mazahib relates a tradition that the Almighty, when addressing the angels in command, uses the Arabic tongue, but when speaking in mercy or beneficence, the Deri dialect of Persian.
4 These were the giants who fought against Israel in Palestine.
5 In this wild tradition we find a confirmation of the sound geographical opinion which makes Arabia “Une des pepinieres du genre humain” (M. Jomard). It must be remembered that the theatre of all earliest civilisation has been a fertile valley with a navigable stream, like Sind, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. The existence of such a spot in Arabia would have altered every page of her history; she would then have become a centre, not a source, of civilisation. Strabo’s Malothes river in Al-Yaman is therefore a myth. As it is, the immense population of the peninsula-still thick, even in the deserts-has, from the earliest ages, been impelled by drought, famine, or desire of conquest, to emigrate into happier regions. All history mentions two main streams which took their rise in the wilds. The first set to the North-East, through Persia, Mekran, Baluchistan, Sind, and the Afghan Mountains, as far as Samarkand, Bokhara, and Tibet; the other, flowing towards the North-West, passed through Egypt and Barbary into Etruria, Spain, the Isles of the Mediterranean, and Southern France. There are two minor emigrations chronicled in history, and written in the indelible characters of physiognomy and philology. One of these set in an exiguous but perennial stream towards India, especially Malabar, where, mixing with the people of the country, the Arab merchants became the progenitors of the Moplah race. The other was a partial emigration, also for commercial purposes, to the coast of Berberah, in Eastern Africa, where, mixing with the Galla tribes, the people of Hazramaut became the sires of the extensive Somali and Sawahil nations. Thus we have from Arabia four different lines of emigration, tending N.E. and S.E., N.W. and S.W. At some future time I hope to develop this curious but somewhat obscure portion of Arabian history. It bears upon a most interesting subject, and serves to explain, by the consanguinity of races, the marvellous celerity with which the faith of Al-Islam spread from the Pillars of Hercules to the confines of China-embracing part of Southern Europe, the whole of Northern and a portion of Central Africa, and at least three-fourths of the continent of Asia.
6 Of this name M.C. de Perceval remarks, “Le mot Arcam etait une designation commune a tous ces rois.” He identifies it with Rekem (Numbers xxxi. 8), one of the kings of the Midianites; and recognises in the preservation of the royal youth the history of Agag and Samuel.
7 And some most ignorantly add, “after the entrance of Moses into the Promised Land.”
8 In those days, we are told, the Jews, abandoning their original settlement in Al-Ghabbah or the low lands to the N. of the town, migrated to the highest portions of the Madinah plain on the S. and E., and the lands of the neighbourhood of the Kuba Mosque.
9 When describing Ohod, I shall have occasion to allude to Aaron’s dome, which occupies the highest part. Few authorities, however, believe that Aaron was buried there; his grave, under a small stone cupola, is shown over the summit of Mount Hor, in the Sinaitic Peninsula, and is much visited by devotees.
10 It must be remembered that many of the Moslem geographers derive the word “Arabia” from a tract of land in the neighbourhood of Al-Madinah.
11 Khaybar in Hebrew is supposed to signify a castle. D’Herbelot makes it to mean a pact or association of the Jews against the Moslems. This fort appears to be one of the latest as well as the earliest of the Hebrew settlements in Al-Hijaz. Benjamin of Tudela asserts that there were 50,000 Jews resident at their old colony, Bartema in A.D. 1703 found remnants of the people there, but his account of them is disfigured by fable. In Niebuhr’s time the Beni Khaybar had independent Shaykhs, and were divided into three tribes, viz., the Benu Masad, the Benu Shahan, and the Benu Anizah (this latter, however, is a Moslem name), who were isolated and hated by the other Jews, and therefore the traveller supposes them to have been Karaites. In Burckhardt’s day the race seems to have been entirely rooted out. I made many inquiries, and all assured me that there is not a single Jewish family now in Khaybar. It is indeed the popular boast in Al-Hijaz, that, with the exception of Jeddah (and perhaps Yambu’, where the Prophet never set his foot), there is not a town in the country harbouring an Infidel. This has now become a point of fanatic honour; but if history may be trusted, it has become so only lately.
12 When the Arabs see the ass turn tail to the wind and rain, they exclaim, “Lo! he turneth his back upon the mercy of Allah!”
13 M.C. de Perceval quotes Judith, ii. 13, 26, and Jeremiah, xlix. 28, to prove that Holofernes, the general of Nebuchadnezzar the First, laid waste the land of Midian and other parts of Northern Arabia.
14 Saba in Southern Arabia.
15 The erection of this dyke is variously attributed to Lukman the Elder (of the tribe of Ad) and to Saba bin Yashjab. It burst according to some, beneath the weight of a flood; according to others, it was miraculously undermined by rats. A learned Indian Shaykh has mistaken the Arabic word “Jurad,” a large kind of mouse or rat, for “Jarad,” a locust, and he makes the wall to have sunk under a “bar i Malakh,” or weight of locusts! No event is more celebrated in the history of pagan Arabia than this, or more trustworthy, despite the exaggeration of the details-the dyke is said to have been four miles long by four broad-and the fantastic marvels which are said to have accompanied its bursting. The ruins have lately been visited by M. Arnaud, a French traveller, who communicated his discovery to the French Asiatic Society in 1845.
16 Ma al-Sama, “the water (or “the splendour”) of heaven,” is, generally speaking, a feminine name amongst the pagan Arabs; possibly it is here intended as a matronymic.
17 This expedition to Al-Madinah is mentioned by all the pre-Islamatic historians, but persons and dates are involved in the greatest confusion. Some authors mention two different expeditions by different Tobbas; others only one, attributing it differently, however, to two Tobbas, — Abu Karb in the 3rd century of the Christian era, and Tobba al-Asghar, the last of that dynasty, who reigned, according to some, in A.D. 300, according to others in A.D. 448. M.C. de Perceval places the event about A.D. 206, and asserts that the Aus and Khazraj did not emigrate to Al-Madinah before A.D. 300. The word Tobba or Tubba, I have been informed by some of the modern Arabs, is still used in the Himyaritic dialect of Arabic to signify “the Great” or “the Chief.”
18 Nothing is more remarkable in the annals of the Arabs than their efforts to prove the Ishmaelitic descent of Mohammed; at the same time no historic question is more open to doubt.
19 If this be true it proves that the Jews of Al-Hijaz had in those days superstitious reverence for the Ka’abah; otherwise the Tobba, after conforming to the law of Moses, would not have shown it this mark of respect. Moreover there is a legend that the same Rabbis dissuaded the Tobba from plundering the sacred place when he was treacherously advised so to do by the Benu Hudayl Arabs. I have lately perused “The Worship of Ba’alim in Israel,” based upon the work of Dr. R. Dozy, “The Israelites in Mecca.” By Dr. H. Oort. Translated from the Dutch, and enlarged, with Notes and Appendices, by the Right Rev. John William Colenso, D.D. (Longmans.) I see no reason why Meccah or Beccah should be made to mean “A Slaughter”; why the Ka’abah should be founded by the Simeonites; why the Hajj should be the Feast of Trumpets; and other assertions in which everything seems to be taken for granted except etymology, which is tortured into confession. If Meccah had been founded by the Simeonites, why did the Persians and the Hindus respect it?
20 It is curious that Abdullah, Mohammed’s father, died and was buried at Al-Madinah, and that his mother Aminah’s tomb is at Abwa, on the Madinah road. Here, too, his great-grandfather Hashim married Salma Al-Mutadalliyah, before him espoused to Uhayhah, of the Aus tribe. Shaybah, generally called Abd al-Muttalib, the Prophet’s grandfather, was the son of Salma, and was bred at Al-Madinah.
21 Ayyas bin Ma’az died, it is said, a Moslem.
22 “Bayat al-Akabat al-ula.” It is so called because this oath was sworn at a place called Al-Akabah (the Mountain-road), near Muna. A Mosque was afterwards built there to commemorate the event.
23 Some Moslem writers suppose that Mohammed singled out twelve men as apostles, and called them Nakil, in imitation of the example of our Saviour. Other Moslems ignore both the fact and the intention. M.C. de Perceval gives the names of these Nakils in vol. iii. p. 8.
24 Orthodox Moslems do not fail to quote this circumstance in honour of the first Caliph, upon whom moreover they bestow the title of “Friend of the Cave.” The Shi’ahs, on the other hand, hating Abu Bakr, see in it a symptom of treachery, and declare that the Prophet feared to let the “Old Hyena,” as they opprobriously term the venerable successor, out of his sight for fear lest he should act as spy to the Kuraysh. The voice of history and of common sense is against the Shi’ahs. M.C. de Perceval justly remarks, that Abu Bakr and Omar were men truly worthy of their great predecessor.
25 This animal’s name, according to some, was Al-Kaswa (“the tips of whose ears are cropped”); according to others Al-Jada’a (“one mutilated in the ear, hand, nose, or lip”). The Prophet bought her for 800 dirhams, on the day before his flight, from Abu Bakr, who had fattened two fine animals of his own breeding. The camel was offered as a gift, but Mohammed insisted upon paying its price, because, say the Moslem casuists, he being engaged in the work of God would receive no aid from man. According to M.C. de Perceval, the Prophet preached from the back of Al-Kaswa the celebrated pilgrimage sermon at Arafat on the 8th March, A.D. 632.
26 The Prophet is generally supposed to have started from Meccah on the first of the same month, on a Friday or a Monday. This discrepancy is supposed to arise from the fact that Mohammed fled his house in Meccah on a Friday, passed three days in the cave on Jabal Saur, and finally left it for Al-Madinah on Monday, which therefore, according to Moslem divines, was the first day of the “Hijrah.” But the aera now commences on the 1st of the previous Muharram, an arrangement made seventeen years after the date of the flight by Omar the Caliph, with the concurrence of Ali.
27 The distance from Kuba to Al-Madinah is little more than three miles, for which six hours-Friday prayers being about noon-may be considered an inordinately long time. But our author might urge as a reason that the multitude of people upon a narrow road rendered the Prophet’s advance a slow one, and some historians relate that he spent several hours in conversation with the Benu Salim.
28 Mohammed never would eat these strong smelling vegetables on account of his converse with the angels, even as modern “Spiritualists” refuse to smoke tobacco; at the same time he allowed his followers to do so, except when appearing in his presence, entering a Mosque, or joining in public prayers. The pious Moslem still eats his onions with these limitations. Some sects, however, as the Wahhabis, considering them abominable, avoid them on all occasions.
29 The name of the tribe literally means “sons of a carpenter”; hence the error of the learned and violent Humphrey Prideaux, corrected by Sale.
30 Some say that Abu Bakr had no abode near the Mosque. But it is generally agreed upon, that he had many houses, one in Al-Bakia, another in the higher parts of Al-Madinah, and among them a hut on the spot between the present gates called Salam and Rahmah.
31 It is clear from the fact above stated, that in those days the Jews of Arabia were in a state of excitement, hourly expecting the advent of their Messiah, and that Mohammed believed himself to be the person appointed to complete the law of Moses.
32 In many minor details the above differs from the received accounts of Pre-Islamitic and early Mohammedan history. Let the blame be borne by the learned Shaykh Abd al-Hakk al-Muhaddis of Delhi, and his compilation, the “Jazb al-Kulub ila Diyar al-Mahhub (the “Drawing of Hearts towards the Holy Parts”). From the multitude of versions at last comes correctness.
33 A Firman from the Porte, dated 13th February, 1841, provides for the paying of these pensions regularly. “It being customary to send every year from Egypt provisions in kind to the two Holy Cities, the provisions and other articles, whatever they may be, which have up to this time been sent to this place, shall continue to be sent thither.” Formerly the Holy Land had immense property in Egypt, and indeed in all parts of Al-Islam. About thirty years ago, Mohammed Ali Pasha bought up all the Wakf (church property), agreeing to pay for its produce, which he rated at five piastres the ardeb, when it was worth three times as much. Even that was not regularly paid. The Sultan has taken advantage of the present crisis to put down Wakf in Turkey. The Holy Land, therefore, will gradually lose all its land and house property, and will soon be compelled to depend entirely upon the presents of the pilgrims, and the Sadakah, or alms, which are still sent to it by the pious Moslems of distant regions. As might be supposed, both the Meccans and the Madani loudly bewail their hard fates, and by no means approve of the Ikram, the modern succedaneum for an extensive and regularly paid revenue. At a future time, I shall recur to this subject.
34 The prayer-niche and the minaret both date their existence from the days of Al-Walid, the builder of the third Mosque. At this age of their empire, the Moslems had travelled far and had seen art in various lands; it is therefore not without a shadow of reason that the Hindus charge them with having borrowed their two favourite symbols, and transformed them into an arch and a tower.
35 The Ustawanat al-Hannanah, or “Weeping-Post.” See page 335, chapter XVI., ante.
36 As usual, there are doubts about the invention of this article. It was covered with cloth by the Caliph Osman, or, as others say, by Al-Mu’awiyah, who, deterred by a solar eclipse from carrying out his project of removing it to Damascus, placed it upon a new framework, elevated six steps above the ground. Al-Mahdi wished to raise the Mambar six steps higher, but was forbidden so to do by the Imam Malik. The Abbasides changed the pulpit, and converted the Prophet’s original seat into combs, which were preserved as relics. Some historians declare that the original Mambar was burnt with the Mosque in A.H. 654. In Ibn Jubayr’s time (A.H. 580), it was customary for visitors to place their right hands upon a bit of old wood, inserted into one of the pillars of the pulpit; this was supposed to be a remnant of the “weeping-post.” Every Sultan added some ornament to the Mambar, and at one time it was made of white marble, covered over with a dome of the “eight metals.” It is now a handsome structure, apparently of wood, painted and gilt of the usual elegant form, which has been compared by some travellers with the suggesta of Roman Catholic churches. I have been explicit about this pulpit, hoping that, next time the knotty question of Apostolic seats comes upon the tapis, our popular authors will not confound a Curule chair with a Moslem Mambar. Of the latter article, Lane (Mod. Egyptians, chap. iii.) gave a sketch in the “Interior of a Mosque.”
37 The Prophet is said to have had a dwelling-house in the Ambariyah, or the Western quarter of the Manakhah suburb, and here, according to some, he lodged Mariyah, the Coptic girl. As pilgrims do not usually visit the place, and nothing of the original building can be now remaining, I did not trouble myself about it.
38 Meaning the Prophet’s fifteen to twenty-five wives. Their number is not settled. He left nine wives and two concubines. It was this title after the Koranic order (chap, xxxiii. v. 53) which rendered their widowhood eternal; no Arab would willingly marry a woman whom he has called mother or sister.
39 Authors mention a place outside the Northern wall called Al-Suffah, which was assigned by Mohammed as a habitation to houseless believers; from which circumstance these paupers derived the title of Ashab al-Suffah, “Companions of the Sofa.”
40 So I translate the Arabicised word “Saj.”
41 A place about five miles from Al-Madinah, on the Meccan way. See Chap. XIV.
42 And curious to say Al-Islam still has the largest cathedral in the world-St. Sophia’s at Constantinople. Next to this ranks St. Peter’s at Rome; thirdly, I believe, the “Jumma Masjid,” or cathedral of the old Moslem city Bijapur in India; the fourth is St. Paul’s, London,
43 It is to this monarch that the Saracenic Mosque-architecture mainly owes its present form. As will be seen, he had every advantage of borrowing from Christian, Persian, and even Indian art. From the first he took the dome, from the second the cloister-it might have been naturalised in Arabia before his time-and possibly from the third the minaret and the prayer-niche. The latter appears to be a peculiarly Hindu feature in sacred buildings, intended to contain the idol, and to support the lamps, flowers, and other offerings placed before it.
44 The reader will remember that in the sixth year of the Hijrah, after Mohammed’s marriage with Zaynab, his wives were secluded behind the Hijab, Pardah, or curtain. A verse of the Koran directed the Moslems to converse with them behind this veil. Hence the general practice of Al-Islam: now it is considered highly disgraceful in any Moslem to make a Moslemah expose her face, and she will frequently found a threat upon the prejudice. A battle has been prevented by this means, and occasionally an insurrection has been caused by it.
45 Amongst which some authors enumerate the goblet and the mirror of Kisra.
46 The outer wall, built by Al-Walid, remained till A.H. 550, when Jamal al-Din of Isafahan, Wazir to Nur al-Din Shahid Mahmud bin Zangi, supplied its place by a grating of open sandal woodwork, or, as others say, of iron. About the same time, Sayyid Abu ’l Hayja sent from Egypt a sheet of white brocade, embroidered in red silk with the chapter Y.S., in order to cover the inner wall. This was mounted on the accession of Al-Mustazi bi’llah, the Caliph, after which it became the custom for every Sultan to renew the offering. And in A.H. 688, Kalaun of Egypt built the outer network of brass as it now is, and surmounted it with the Green Dome.
47 The inner wall, erected by Al-Walid, seems to have resisted the fire which in A.H. 654 burnt the Mosque to the ground. Also, in A.H. 886, when the building was consumed by lightning, the Hujrah was spared by the devouring element.
48 After the Prophet’s death and burial, Ayishah continued to occupy the same room, without even a curtain between her and the tomb. At last, vexed by the crowds of visitors, she partitioned off the hallowed spot with a wall. She visited the grave unveiled as long as her father Abu Bakr only was placed behind the Prophet; but when Omar’s corpse was added, she always covered her face.
49 One of these, the minaret at the Bab-al-Salam, was soon afterwards overthrown by Al-Walid’s brother Sulayman, because it shaded the house of Marwan, where he lodged during his visit to Al-Madinah in the cold season.
50 The dinar (denarius) was a gold piece, a ducat, a sequin.
51 I purpose to touch upon this event in a future chapter, when describing my route from Al-Madinah to Meccah.
52 “On this occasion,” says Al-Samanhudi, quoted by Burckhardt, “the interior of the Hujrah was cleared, and three deep graves were found in the inside, full of rubbish, but the author of this history, who himself entered it, saw no traces of tombs.” Yet in another place he, an eye-witness, had declared that the coffin containing the dust of Mohammed was cased with silver. I repeat these details.
53 Burckhardt has given a full account of this event in his history of the Wahhabis.
54 See Chapter XVI., ante.
55 My predecessor estimates the whole treasury in those days to have been worth 300,000 Riyals, — a small sum, if we consider the length of time during which it was accumulating. The chiefs of the town appropriated 1 cwt. of golden vessels, worth at most 50,000 dollars, and Sa’ud sold part of the plunder to Ghalib for 100,000 (I was told one-third more), reserving for himself about the same amount of pearls and corals. Burckhardt supposes that the governors of Al-Madinah, who were often independent chiefs, and sometimes guardians of the tombs, made occasional draughts upon the generosity of the Faithful.
56 I inquired in vain about the substance that covered the dome. Some told me it was tinfoil; others supposed it to be rivetted with green tiles.
57 The Badawi calls a sound dollar “Kirsh Hajar,” or “Riyal Hajar,” a “stone dollar.”
58 At the same time his account is still carefully copied by our popular and general authors, who, it is presumed, could easily become better informed.
59 The Persians in remote times, as we learn from Herodotus (lib. 6), were waited upon by eunuchs, and some attribute to them the invention. Ammianus Marcellinus (lib. 14) ascribes the origin to Semiramis. In Al-Islam, the employment of such persons about the Mosque is a “Bida’ah” or custom unknown in the time of the Prophet. It is said to have arisen from the following three considerations: 1. These people are concentrated in their professions; 2. They must see and touch strange women at the shrines; and 3. The shrines are “Harim,” or sacred, having adyta which are kept secret from the prying eyes of men, and, therefore, should be served by eunuchs. It is strange that the Roman Catholic church, as well as the Moslem Mosque, should have admitted such an abomination.
60 One of these gentry, if called “Tawashi,” — his generic name, — would certainly insult a stranger. The polite form of address to one of them is “Agha” — Master, — in the plural “Aghawat.” In partibus, they exact the greatest respect from men, and the title of the Eunuch of the Tomb is worth a considerable sum to them. The eunuchs of Al-Madinah are more numerous and better paid than those of Meccah: they are generally the slaves of rich men at Constantinople, and prefer this city on account of its climate.
61 The “Sons of the City,” however, are always allowed to do such service gratis; if, indeed, they are not paid for it.
62 Others told me that there were only two muftis at Al-Madinah, namely, those of the Hanafi and Shafe’i schools. If this be true, it proves the insignificance of the followers of Malik, which personage, like others, is less known in his own town than elsewhere.
63 The Hanbali school is nowhere common except in Nijd, and the lands Eastward as far as Al-Hasa. At present it labours under a sort of imputation, being supposed to have thrown out a bad offshoot, the Wahhabis.
64 “Ruasa” is the plural of Rais, a chief or president. It is the term generally applied in Arabia to the captain of a vessel, and in Al-Yaman it often means a barber, in virtue, I presume, of its root-Ras, the head.
65 Some say that the Egyptian distinction between the Imam Khatib and the Imam Ratib does not obtain at Al-Madinah.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:48