Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, by Richard Burton

Chapter XX.

The Visitation of Hamzah’s Tomb.

ON the morning of Sunday, the twenty-third Zu’l Ka’adah (28th August, 1853), arrived from Al-Sham, or Damascus,1 the great Caravan popularly called Hajj al-Shami, the “Damascus pilgrimage,” as the Egyptian Cafila is Al-Misri,2 or the Cairo pilgrimage. It is the main stream which carries off all the small currents that, at this season of general movement, flow from Central Asia towards the great centre of the Islamitic world, and in 1853 it amounted to about seven thousand souls. The arrival was anxiously expected by the people for several reasons. In the first place, it brought with it a new curtain for the Prophet’s Hujrah, the old one being in a tattered condition; secondly, it had charge of the annual stipends and pensions of the citizens; and thirdly, many families expected members returning under its escort to their homes. The popular anxiety was greatly increased by the disordered state of the country round about; and, moreover, the great caravan had been one day late, generally arriving on the morning of the twenty-second Zu’l Ka’adah.3

During the night three of Shaykh Hamid’s brothers, who had entered as Muzawwirs with the Hajj, came suddenly to the house: they leaped off their camels, and lost not a moment in going through the usual scene of kissing, embracing, and weeping bitterly for joy. I arose in the morning, and looked out from the windows of the Majlis. The Barr al-Manakhah, from a dusty waste dotted with a few Badawi hair-tents, had assumed all the various shapes and the colours of a kaleidoscope. The eye was bewildered by the shifting of innumerable details, in all parts totally different from one another, thrown confusedly together in one small field; and, however jaded with sight-seeing, it dwelt with delight upon the variety, the vivacity, and the intense picturesqueness of the scene. In one night had sprung up a town of tents of every size, colour, and shape; round, square, and oblong; open and closed, — from the shawl-lined and gilt-topped pavilion of the Pasha, with all the luxurious appurtenances of the Harim, to its neighbour the little dirty green “rowtie” of the tobacco-seller. They were pitched in admirable order: here ranged in a long line, where a street was required; there packed in dense masses, where thoroughfares were unnecessary. But how describe the utter confusion in the crowding, the bustling, and the vast variety and volume of sound? Huge white Syrian dromedaries, compared with which those of Al-Hijaz appeared mere pony-camels, jingling large bells, and bearing Shugdufs4 (litters) like miniature green tents, swaying and tossing upon their backs; gorgeous Takht-rawan, or litters carried between camels or mules with scarlet and brass trappings; Badawin bestriding naked-backed “Daluls5” (dromedaries), and clinging like apes to the hairy humps; Arnaut, Kurd, and Turkish Irregular Cavalry, fiercer looking in their mirth than Roman peasants in their rage; fainting Persian pilgrims, forcing their stubborn camels to kneel, or dismounted grumbling from jaded donkeys; Kahwajis, sherbet sellers, and ambulant tobacconists crying their goods; country-people driving flocks of sheep and goats with infinite clamour through lines of horses fiercely snorting and biting and kicking and rearing; townspeople seeking their friends; returned travellers exchanging affectionate salutes; devout Hajis jostling one another, running under the legs of camels, and tumbling over the tents’ ropes in their hurry to reach the Harim; cannon roaring from the citadel; shopmen, water-carriers, and fruit vendors fighting over their bargains; boys with loud screams bullying heretics; a well-mounted party of fine old Arab Shaykhs of the Hamidah clan, preceded by their varlets, performing the Arzah or war dance, — compared with which the Pyrenean bear’s performance is grace itself, — firing their duck-guns upwards, or blowing the powder into the calves of those before them, brandishing their swords, leaping frantically the while, with their bright coloured rags floating in the wind, tossing their long spears tufted with ostrich feathers high in the air, reckless where they fall; servants seeking their masters, and masters their tents, with vain cries of Ya Mohammed6; grandees riding mules or stalking on foot, preceded by their crowd-beaters, shouting to clear the way; here the loud shrieks of women and children, whose litters are bumping and rasping against one another; there the low moaning of some poor wretch that is seeking a shady corner to die in: add a thick dust which blurs the outlines like a London fog, with a flaming sun that draws sparkles of fire from the burnished weapons of the crowd, and the brass balls of tent and litter; and-I doubt, gentle reader, that even the length, the jar, and the confusion of this description is adequate to its subject, or that any “word-painting” of mine can convey a just idea of the scene.

This was the day appointed for our visiting the martyrs of Ohod. After praying the dawn prayers as directed at the Harim, we mounted our donkeys; and, armed with pistols and knives, we set out from the city. Our party was large. Sa’ad the Demon had offered to accompany us, and the bustle around kept him in the best of humours; Omar Effendi was also there, quiet-looking and humble as usual, leading his ass to avoid the trouble of dismounting every second minute.7 I had the boy Mohammed and my “slave,” and Shaykh Hamid was attended by half a dozen relations. To avoid the crush of the Barr al-Manakhah, we made a detour Westwards, over the bridge and down the course of the torrent-bed “Al-Sayh.” We then passed along the Southern wall of the castle, traversed its Eastern outwork, and issued from the Bab al-Shami. During the greater part of the time we were struggling through a living tide; and among dromedaries and chargers a donkey is by no means a pleasant monture. With some difficulty, but without any more serious accident than a fall or two, we found ourselves in the space beyond and northward of the city. This also was covered with travellers and tents, amongst which on an eminence to the left of the road, rose conspicuous the bright green pavilion of the Emir Al-Hajj, the commandant of the Caravan.8 Hard by, half its height surrounded by a Kanat or tent wall, stood the Syrian or Sultan’s Mahmil (litter), all glittering with green and gilding and gold, and around it were pitched the handsome habitations of the principal officers and grandees of the pilgrimage. On the right hand lay extensive palm plantations, and on the left, strewed over the plain, were signs of wells and tanks, built to supply the Hajj with water. We pass two small buildings, one the Kubbat Al-Sabak, or Dome of Precedence, where the Prophet’s warrior friends used to display their horsemanship; the second the Makan, or burial-place of Sayyidna Zaki al-Din, one of Mohammed’s multitudinous descendants. Then we fall into a plain, resembling that of Kuba, but less fertile. While we are jogging over it, a few words concerning Mount Ohod may not be misplaced. A popular distich says,

“Verily there is healing to the eye that looks

Unto Ohod and the two Harrahs9 (ridges) near.”

And of this holy hill the Apostle declared, “Ohod is a Mountain which loves Us and which We love: it is upon the Gate of Heaven10;” adding, “And Ayr11 is a Place which hates Us and which We hate: it is upon the Gate of Hell.” The former sheltered Mohammed in the time of danger; therefore, on Resurrection Day it will be raised to Paradise: whereas Jabal Ayr, its neighbour, having been so ill-judged as to refuse the Prophet water on an occasion while he thirsted, will be cast incontinently into Jahannam. Moslem divines, be it observed, ascribe to Mohammed miraculous authority over animals, vegetables, and minerals, as well as over men, angels, and jinnis. Hence the speaking wolf, the weeping post, the oil-stone, and the love and hate of these two mountains. It is probably one of the many remains of ancient paganism pulled down and afterwards used to build up the edifice of Al-Islam. According to the old Persians, the sphere has an active soul. Some sects of Hindus believe “mother earth,” upon whose bosom we little parasites crawl, to be a living being. This was a dogma also amongst the ancient Egyptians, who denoted it by a peculiar symbol, — the globe with human legs. Hence the “Makrokosmos” of the plagiaristic Greeks, the animal on a large scale, whose diminutive was the “Mikrokosmos” — man. Tota natura, repeats Malpighi, existit in minimis. Amongst the Romans, Tellus or Terra was a female deity, anthropomorphised according to their syncretic system, which furnished with strange gods their Pantheon, but forgot to append the scroll explaining the inner sense of the symbol. And some modern philosophers, Kepler, Blackmore, and others, have not scrupled to own their belief in a doctrine which as long as “Life” is a mere word on man’s tongue, can neither be proved nor disproved. The Mohammedans, as usual, exaggerate the dogma, — a Hadis related by Abu Hurayrah casts on the day of judgment the sun and the moon into hell fire.

Jabal Ohod owes its present reputation to a cave which sheltered the Apostle when pursued by his enemies12; to certain springs of which he drank,13 and especially to its being the scene of a battle celebrated in Al-Islam. On Saturday, the 11th Shawwal, in the third year of the Hijrah (26th January, A.D. 625), Mohammed with seven hundred men engaged three thousand Infidels under the command of Abu Sufiyan; ran great personal danger, and lost his uncle Hamzah, the “Lord of Martyrs.” On the topmost pinnacle, also, is the Kubbat Harun, the dome erected over Aaron’s remains. It is now, I was told, in a ruinous condition, and is placed upon the “pinnacle of seven hills14” in a position somewhat like that of certain buildings on St. Angelo in the Bay of Naples. Alluding to the toil of reaching it, the Madani quote a facetious rhyme inscribed upon the wall by one of their number who had wasted his breath:—

“Malun ibn Malun

Man tala’a Kubbat Harun!”

Anglice, “The man must be a ruffian who climbs up to Aaron’s dome.” Devout Moslems visit Ohod every Thursday morning after the dawn devotions in the Harim; pray for the Martyrs; and, after going through the ceremonies, return to the Harim in time for mid-day worship. On the 12th of Rajab, Zairs come out in large bodies from the city, encamp on the plain for three or four days, and pass the time in feasting, jollity, and devotion, as is usual at pilgrimages and at saints’ festivals in general.

After half an hour’s ride we came to the Mustarah or resting-place, so called because the Prophet sat here for a few minutes on his way to the battle of Ohod. It is a newly-built square enclosure of dwarf whitewashed walls, within which devotees pray. On the outside fronting Al-Madinah is a seat like a chair of rough stones. Here I was placed by my Muzawwir, who recited an insignificant supplication to be repeated after him. At its end with the Fatihah and accompaniments, we remounted our asses and resumed our way. Travelling onwards, we came in sight of the second Harrah or ridge. It lies to the right and left of the road, and resembles lines of lava, but I had not an opportunity to examine it narrowly.15 Then we reached the gardens of Ohod, which reflect in miniature those of Kuba; and presently we arrived at what explained the presence of verdure and vegetable life, — a deep Fiumara full of loose sand and large stones denoting an impetuous stream. It flows along the Southern base of Ohod, said to be part of the plain of Al-Madinah, and it collects the drainage of the high lands lying to the South and South-east. The bed becomes impassable after rain, and sometimes the torrents overflow the neighbouring gardens. By the direction of this Fiumara I judged that it must supply the Ghabbah or “basin” in the hills north of the plain. Good authorities, however, informed me that a large volume of water will not stand there, but flows down the beds that wind through the Ghats westward of Al-Madinah, and falls into the sea near the harbour of Wijh. To the south of the Fiumara is a village on an eminence, containing some large brick houses now in a ruinous state; these are the villas of opulent and religious citizens who visited the place for change of air, recreation, and worship at Hamzah’s tomb. Our donkeys presently sank fetlock-deep in the loose sand of the torrent-bed. Then reaching the Northern side, and ascending a gentle slope, we found ourselves upon the battle-field.

This spot, so celebrated in the annals of Al-Islam, is a shelving strip of land, close to the Southern base of Mount Ohod. The army of the Infidels advanced from the Fiumara in crescent shape, with Abu Sufiyan, the general, and his idols in the centre. It is distant about three miles from Al-Madinah, in a Northerly direction.16 All the visitor sees is hard gravelly ground, covered with little heaps of various coloured granite, red sandstone, and bits of porphyry, to denote the different places where the martyrs fell, and were buried.17 Seen from this point, there is something appalling in the look of the Holy Mountain. Its seared and jagged flanks rise like masses of iron from the plain, and the crevice into which the Moslem host retired, when the disobedience of the archers in hastening to plunder enabled Khalid bin Walid to fall upon Mohammed’s rear, is the only break in the grim wall. Reeking with heat, its surface produces not one green shrub or stunted tree; neither bird nor beast appeared upon its inhospitable sides, and the bright blue sky glaring above its bald and sullen brow, made it look only the more repulsive. I was glad to turn away my eyes from it.

To the left of the road North of the Fiumara, and leading to the mountains, stands Hamzah’s Mosque, which, like the Harim of Al-Madinah, is a Mausoleum as well as a fane. It is a small strongly built square of hewn stone, with a dome covering the solitary hypostyle to the South, and the usual minaret. The Westward wing is a Zawiyah or oratory,18 frequented by the celebrated Sufi and Saint, Mohammed al-Samman, the “Clarified Butter-Seller,” one of whose blood, the reader will remember, stood by my side in the person of Shaykh Hamid. On the Eastern side of the building a half wing projects; and a small door opens to the South, upon a Mastabah or stone bench five or six feet high: this completes the square of the edifice. On the right of the road opposite Hamzah’s Mosque, is a large erection, now in ruins, containing a deep hole leading to a well, with huge platforms for the accommodation of travellers. Beyond, towards the mountains, are the small edifices presently to be described.

Some Turkish women were sitting veiled upon the shady platform opposite the Martyrs’ Mosque. At a little distance their husbands, and the servants holding horses and asses, lay upon the ground, and a large crowd of Badawin, boys, girls, and old women, had gathered around to beg, draw water, and sell dry dates. They were awaiting the guardian, who had not yet acknowledged the summons. After half an hour’s vain patience, we determined to proceed with the ceremonies. Ascending by its steps the Mastabah subtending half the Eastern wall, Shaykh Hamid placed me so as to front the tomb. There standing in the burning sun, we repeated the following prayer: “Peace be upon Thee, O our Lord Hamzah! O Paternal Uncle of Allah’s Apostle! O Paternal Uncle of Allah’s Prophet! Peace be upon Thee, O Paternal Uncle of Mustafa! Peace be upon Thee, O Prince of the Martyrs! O Prince of the Happy! Peace be upon Thee, O Lion of Allah! O Lion of His Prophet!” After which, we asked Hamzah and his companions to lend us their aid in obtaining for us and ours pardon, worldly prosperity and future happiness. Scarcely had we finished, when, mounted on a high-trotting dromedary, appeared the emissary of Mohammed Kalifah, descendant of Al-Abbas, who keeps the key of the Mosque, and who receives the fees and donations of the devout. It was to be opened for the Turkish pilgrims. I waited to see the interior. The Arab drew forth from his pouch, with abundant solemnity, a bunch of curiously made keys, and sharply directed me to stand away from and out of sight of the door. When I obeyed, grumblingly, he began to rattle the locks, and to snap the padlocks, opening them slowly, shaking them, and making as much noise as possible. The reason of the precaution-it sounded like poetry if not sense-is this. It is believed that the souls of martyrs, leaving the habitations of their senseless clay, 19 are fond of sitting together in spiritual converse, and profane eye must not fall upon the scene. What grand pictures these imaginative Arabs see! Conceive the majestic figures of the saints-for the soul with Mohammedans is like the old European spirit, a something immaterial in the shape of the body-with long grey beards, earnest faces, and solemn eyes, reposing beneath the palms, and discussing events now buried in the gloom of a thousand years. I would fain be hard upon this superstition, but shame prevents. When in Nottingham, eggs may not be carried out after sunset; when Ireland hears Banshees, or apparitional old women, with streaming hair, and dressed in blue mantles; when Scotland sees a shroud about a person, showing his approaching death; when France has her loup-garous, revenants, and poules du Vendredi Saint (i.e. hens hatched on Good Friday supposed to change colour every year): as long as the Holy Coat cures devotees at Treves, Madonnas wink at Rimini, San Januario melts at Naples, and Addolorate and Estatiche make converts to hysteria at Rome: whilst the Virgin manifests herself to children on the Alps and in France, whilst Germany sends forth Psychography, whilst Europe, the civilised, the enlightened, the sceptical, dotes over clairvoyance and table-turning, and whilst even hard-headed America believes in “mediums,” in “snail-telegraphs,” and “spirit-rappings,”20 — I must hold the men of Al-Madinah to be as wise, and their superstition to be as respectable, as that of others. But the realities of Hamzah’s Mosque have little to recommend them. The building is like that of Kuba, only smaller: and the hypostyle is hung with oil lamps and ostrich eggs, the usual paltry furniture of an Arab mausoleum. On the walls are a few modern inscriptions and framed poetry, written in a calligraphic hand. Beneath the Riwak lies Hamzah, under a mass of black basaltic stone,21 resembling that of Aden, only more porous and scoriaceous, convex at the top, like a heap of earth, without the Kiswah,22 or cover of a saint’s tomb, and railed round with wooden bars. At his head, or westward, lies Abdullah bin Jaysh, a name little known to fame, under a plain whitewashed tomb, also convex; and in the courtyard is a similar pile, erected over the remains of Shammas bin Osman, another obscure Companion.23 We then passed through a door in the Northern part of the Western wall, and saw a diminutive palm plantation and a well. After which we left the Mosque, and I was under the “fatal necessity” of paying a dollar for the honour of entering it. But the guardian promised that the chapters Y.S. and Al-Ikhlas should be recited for my benefit, the latter forty times; and if their efficacy be one-twentieth part of what men say it is, the reader cannot quote against me a certain popular proverb concerning an order of men easily parted from their money.

Issuing from the Mosque, we advanced a few paces towards the mountain. On our left we passed by-at a respectful distance, for the Turkish Hajis cried out that their women were engaged in ablution-a large Sahrij or tank, built of cut stone with steps, and intended to detain the overflowing waters of the torrent. The next place we prayed at was a small square, enclosed with dwarf whitewashed walls, containing a few graves denoted by ovals of loose stones thinly spread upon the ground. This is primitive Arab simplicity. The Badawin still mark the places of their dead with four stones planted at the head, the feet, and the sides; in the centre the earth is either heaped up Musannam (i.e. like the hump of a camel), or more generally left Musattah (level). I therefore suppose that the latter was the original shape of the Prophet’s tomb. Within the enclosure certain martyrs of the holy army were buried. After praying there, we repaired to a small building still nearer to the foot of the mountain. It is the usual cupola springing from four square walls, not in the best preservation. Here the Prophet prayed, and it is called the Kubbat al-Sanaya, “Dome of the Front Teeth,” from the following circumstance. Five Infidels were bound by oath to slay Mohammed at the battle of Ohod: one of these, Ibn Kumayyah, threw so many stones, and with such goodwill, that two rings of the Prophet’s helmet were driven into his cheek, and blood poured from his brow down his mustachios, which he wiped with a cloak to prevent the drops falling to the ground. Then Utbah bin Abi Wakkas hurled a stone at him, which, splitting his lower lip, knocked out one of his front teeth.24 On the left of the Mihrab, inserted low down in the wall, is a square stone, upon which Shaykh Hamid showed me the impression of a tooth25: he kissed it with peculiar reverence, and so did I. But the boy Mohammed being by me objurgated-for I remarked in him a jaunty demeanour combined with neglectfulness of ceremonies-saluted it sulkily, muttering the while hints about the holiness of his birthplace exempting him from the trouble of stooping. Already he had appeared at the Harim without his Jubbah, and with ungirt loins-in waistcoat and shirt-sleeves. Moreover, he had conducted himself indecorously by nudging Shaykh Hamid’s sides during divine service. Feeling that the youth’s “moral man” was, like his physical, under my charge, and determined to arrest a course of conduct which must have ended in obtaining for me, the master, the reputation of a “son of Belial,” I insisted upon his joining us in the customary two-bow prayers. And Sa’ad the Demon, taking my side of the question with his usual alacrity when a disturbance was in prospect, the youth found it necessary to yield. After this little scene, Shaykh Hamid pointed out a sprawling inscription blessing the Companions of the Prophet. The unhappy Abu Bakr’s name had been half effaced by some fanatic Shi’ah, a circumstance which seemed to arouse all the evil in my companion’s nature; and, looking close at the wall I found a line of Persian verse to this effect:

“I am weary of my life (Umr), because it bears the name of Umar.”26

We English wanderers are beginning to be shamed out of our “vulgar” habit of scribbling names and nonsense in noted spots. Yet the practice is both classical and oriental. The Greeks and Persians left their marks everywhere, as Egypt shows; and the paws of the Sphinx bears scratches which, being interpreted, are found to be the same manner of trash as that written upon the remains of Thebes in A.D. 1879. And Easterns appear never to enter a building with a white wall without inditing upon it platitudes in verse and prose. Influenced by these considerations, I drew forth a pencil and inscribed in the Kubbat al-Sanaya,

[Arabic text]

“Abdullah, the servant of Allah.” (A.H.) 1269.

Issuing from the dome, we turned a few paces to the left, passed northwards, and thus blessed the Martyrs of Ohod:

“Peace be upon Ye, O Martyrs! Peace be upon Ye, O Blessed! ye Pious! ye Pure! who fought upon Allah’s Path the good Fight, who worshipped your Lord until He brought you to Certainty.27 Peace be upon You of whom Allah said (viz., in the Koran), ‘Verily repute not them slain on God’s Path (i.e., warring with Infidels); nay, rather they are alive, and there is no Fear upon them, nor are they sorrowful!’ Peace be upon Ye, O Martyrs of Ohod! One and All, and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings.”

Then again we moved a few paces forward and went through a similar ceremony, supposing ourselves to be in the cave that sheltered the Apostle. After which, returning towards the torrent-bed by the way we came, we stood a small distance from a cupola called Kubbat al-Masra. It resembles that of the “Front-teeth,” and notes, as its name proves, the place where the gallant Hamzah fell by the spear of Wahshi the slave.28 We faced towards it and finished the ceremonies of this Ziyarat by a Supplication, the Testification, and the Fatihah.

In the evening I went with my friends to the Harim. The minaret galleries were hung with lamps, and the inside of the temple was illuminated. It was crowded with Hajis, amongst whom were many women, a circumstance which struck me from its being unusual.29 Some pious pilgrims, who had duly paid for the privilege, were perched upon ladders trimming wax candles of vast dimensions, others were laying up for themselves rewards in Paradise, by performing the same office to the lamps; many were going through the ceremonies of Ziyarat, and not a few were sitting in different parts of the Mosque apparently overwhelmed with emotion. The boys and the beggars were inspired with fresh energy, the Aghawat were gruffer and surlier than I had ever seen them, and the young men about town walked and talked with a freer and an easier demeanour than usual. My old friends the Persians-there were about 1200 of them in the Hajj Caravan-attracted my attention. The doorkeepers stopped them with curses as they were about to enter, and all claimed from each the sum of five piastres, whilst other Moslems were allowed to enter the Mosque free. Unhappy men! they had lost all the Shiraz swagger, their mustachios dropped pitiably, their eyes would not look any one in the face, and not a head bore a cap stuck upon it crookedly. Whenever an “’Ajami,” whatever might be his rank, stood in the way of an Arab or a Turk, he was rudely thrust aside, with abuse muttered loud enough to be heard by all around. All eyes followed them as they went through the ceremonies of Ziyarat, especially as they approached the tombs of Abu Bakr and Omar, — which every man is bound to defile if he can, — and the supposed place of Fatimah’s burial. Here they stood in parties, after praying before the Prophet’s window: one read from a book the pathetic tale of the Lady’s life, sorrows, and mourning death, whilst the others listened to him with breathless attention. Sometimes their emotion was too strong to be repressed. “Ay Fatimah! Ay Muzlumah! Way! way! — O Fatimah! O thou injured one! Alas! alas!” burst involuntarily from their lips, despite the danger of such exclamations; tears trickled down their hairy cheeks, and their brawny bosoms heaved with sobs. A strange sight it was to see rugged fellows, mountaineers perhaps, or the fierce Iliyat of the plains, sometimes weeping silently like children, sometimes shrieking like hysteric girls, and utterly careless to conceal a grief so coarse and grisly, at the same time so true and real, that I knew not how to behold it. Then the Satanic scowls with which they passed by, or pretended to pray at, the hated Omar’s tomb! With what curses their hearts are belying those mouths full of blessings! How they are internally canonising Fayruz-the Persian slave who stabbed Omar in the Mosque-and praying for his eternal happiness in the presence of the murdered man! Sticks and stones, however, and not unfrequently the knife and the sabre, have taught them the hard lesson of disciplining their feelings; and nothing but a furious contraction of the brow, a roll of the eye, intensely vicious, and a twitching of the muscles about the region of the mouth, denote the wild storm of wrath within. They generally, too, manage to discharge some part of their passion in words. “Hail Omar, thou hog!” exclaims some fanatic Madani as he passes by the heretic-a demand more outraging than requiring a red-hot, black-north Protestant to bless the Pope. “O Allah! hell him!” meekly responds the Persian, changing the benediction to a curse most intelligible to, and most delicious in, his fellows’ ears.30

An evening hour in the steamy heat of the Harim was equal to half a dozen afternoons; and I left it resolved never to revisit it till the Hajj departed from Al-Madinah. It was only prudent not to see much of the ’Ajamis; and as I did so somewhat ostentatiously, my companions discovered that the Shaykh Abdullah, having slain many of those heretics in some war or other, was avoiding them to escape retaliation. In proof of my generalistic qualities, the rolling down of the water jar upon the heads of the Maghribi Pilgrims in the “Golden Thread” was quoted, and all offered to fight for me a l’outrance. I took care not to contradict the report.

1 This city derives its names, the “Great Gate of Pilgrimage,” and the “Key of the Prophet’s Tomb” from its being the gathering-place of this caravan.

2 The Egyptians corruptly pronounce “Al-Misr,” i.e. Cairo, as “Al-Masr.”

3 NOTE TO FOURTH EDITION:— I reprint the following from the Illustrated News in proof that the literati of England have still something to learn:— “On the 1st instant the annual ceremony of the departure of the Sure-emini with the Imperial gifts for the Prophet’s tomb at Mecca took place in front of the palace at Constantinople. The Levant Herald states that the presents, which consist, beside the large money donation, of rich shawls and gold-woven stuffs, were brought out of the Imperial apartments and packed in presence of the Sultan, on two beautiful camels, which, after the delivery of the usual prayers, were then led in grand procession, accompanied by all the high officers of state, to the landing-place at Cabatash, where the Sure-emini and camels were embarked on a Government steamer and ferried over to Scutari. There the holy functionary will remain some days, till the ‘faithful’ of the capital and those who have come from the interior have joined him, when the caravan will start for Damascus. At this latter city the grand rendezvous takes place, and, that accomplished, the great caravan sets out for Mecca under the Emir-el-Hadj of the year. The Imperial presents on this occasion cost more than L20,000.”

4 The Syrian Shugduf differs entirely from that of Al-Hijaz. It is composed of two solid wooden cots about four feet in length, slung along the camel’s sides and covered over with cloth, in the shape of a tent. They are nearly twice as heavy as the Hijazi litter, and yet a Syrian camel-man would as surely refuse to put one of the latter upon his beast’s back, as the Hijazi to carry a Syrian litter. See p. 223, ante.

5 This is the Arabic modern word, synonymous with the Egyptian Hajin, namely, a she-dromedary. The word “Nakah,” at present popular in Al-Hijaz, means a she-dromedary kept for breeding as well as for riding.

6 One might as sensibly cry out “John” in an English theatre.

7 Respectable men in Al-Hijaz, when they meet friends, acquaintances, or superiors, consider it only polite to dismount from a donkey.

8 The title of the Pasha who has the privilege of conducting the Caravan. It is a lucrative as well as an honourable employment, for the Emir enjoys the droit d’aubaine, becoming heir to the personal property of all pilgrims who die in the Holy Cities or on the line of march. And no Persian, even of the poorest, would think of undertaking a pilgrimage by this line of country, without having at least L80 in ready money with him. The first person who bore the title of Emir Al-Hajj was Abu Bakr, who, in the ninth year of the Hijrah, led 300 Moslems from Al-Madinah to the Meccah pilgrimage. On this occasion idolaters and infidels were for the first time expelled the Holy City.

9 “Harrah” from Harr (heat) is the generic name of lava, porous basalt, scoriae, greenstone, schiste, and others supposed to be of igneous origin. It is also used to denote a ridge or hill of such formation. One Harrah has already been mentioned in Chapter XV. The second is on the road to Ohod. There is a third Harrah, called Al-Wakin or Al-Zahrah, about one mile Eastward of Al-Madinah. Here the Prophet wept, predicting that the last men of his faith would be foully slain. The prophecy was fulfilled in the days of Yazid, when the people of Al-Madinah filled their assembly with slippers and turbands to show that on account of his abominations they had cast off their allegiance as a garment. The “Accursed” sent an aged sinner, Muslim bin Akbah al-Marai, who, though a cripple, defeated the Madani in a battle called the “Affair of the Ridge,” slaying of them 10,000 citizens, 1700 learned and great men, 700 teachers of the Koran, and 97 Karashi nobles. This happened in the month of Zu’l Hijjah, A.H. 63. For three days the city was plundered, the streets ran blood, dogs ate human flesh in the Mosque, and no fewer than 1000 women were insulted. It was long before Al-Madinah recovered from this fatal blow, which old Muslim declared would open to him the gates of Paradise. The occurrence is now forgotten at Al-Madinah, though it will live in history. The people know not the place, and even the books are doubtful whether this Harrah be not upon the spot where the Khandak or moat was.

10 Meaning that on the Day of Resurrection it shall be so treated. Many, however, suppose Ohod to be one of the four hills of Paradise. The other three, according to Al-Tabrani from Amr bin Auf, are Sinai, Lebanon, and Mount Warkan on the Meccan road. Others suppose Ohod to be one of the six mountains which afforded materials for the Kaabah, viz., Abu Kubays, Sinai, Kuds (at Jerusalem), Warkan and Radhwah near Yambu’. Also it is said that when the Lord conversed with Moses on Sinai, the mountain burst into six pieces, three of which flew to Al-Madinah, Ohod, Warkan and Radhwah, and three to Meccah, Hira (now popularly called Jabal Nur), Sabir, (the old name for Jabal Muna), and Saur.

11 “Ayr” means a “wild ass,” whereas Ohod is derived from Ahad, “one,” — so called because fated to be the place of victory to those who worship one God. The very names, say Moslem divines, make it abundantly evident that even as the men of Al-Madinah were of two parties, friendly and hostile to the Prophet, so were these mountains.

12 This Cave is a Place of Visitation, but I did not go there, as it is on the Northern flank of the hill, and all assured me that it contained nothing worth seeing. Many ignore it altogether.

13 Ohod, it is said, sent forth in the Prophet’s day 360 springs, of which ten or twelve now remain.

14 Meaning that the visitor must ascend several smaller eminences. The time occupied is from eight to nine hours, but I should not advise my successor to attempt it in the hot weather.

15 When engaged in such a holy errand as this, to have ridden away for the purpose of inspecting a line of black stone, would have been certain to arouse the suspicions of an Arab. Either, he would argue, you recognise the place of some treasure described in your books, or you are a magician seeking a talisman.

16 Most Arab authors place Ohod about two miles N. of Al-Madinah. Al-Idrisi calls it the nearest hill, and calculates the distance at 6000 paces. Golius gives two leagues to Ohod and Ayr, which is much too far. In our popular accounts, “Mohammed posted himself upon the hill of Ohod, about six miles from Al-Madinah,” two mistakes.

17 They are said to be seventy, but the heaps appeared to me at least three times more numerous.

18 A Zawiyah in Northern Africa resembles the Takiyah of India, Persia, and Egypt, being a monastery for Darwayshes who reside there singly or in numbers. A Mosque, and sometimes, according to the excellent practice of Al-Islam, a school, are attached to it.

19 Some historians relate that forty-six years after the battle of Ohod, the tombs were laid bare by a torrent, when the corpses appeared in their winding-sheets as if buried the day before. Some had their hands upon their death wounds, from which fresh blood trickled when the pressure was forcibly removed. In opposition to this Moslem theory, we have that of the modern Greeks, namely, that if the body be not decomposed within a year, it shows that the soul is not where it should be.

20 In fairness I must confess to believing in the reality of these phenomena, but not in their “spiritual” origin.

21 In Ibn Jubayr’s time the tomb was red.

22 In the common tombs of martyrs, saints, and holy men, this covering is usually of green cloth, with long white letters sewn upon it. I forgot to ask whether it was temporarily absent from Hamzah’s grave.

23 All these erections are new. In Burckhardt’s time they were mere heaps of earth, with a few loose stones placed around them. I do not know what has become of the third martyr, said to have been interred near Hamzah. Possibly some day he may reappear: meanwhile the people of Al-Madinah are so wealthy in saints, that they can well afford to lose sight of one.

24 Formerly in this place was shown a slab with the mark of a man’s head-like St. Peter’s at Rome-where the Prophet had rested. Now it seems to have disappeared, and the tooth has succeeded to its honours.

25 Some historians say that four teeth were knocked out by this stone. This appears an exaggeration.

26 In Persian characters the word Umr, life, and Umar, the name of the hated caliph, are written in the same way; which explains the pun.

27 That is to say, “to the hour of death.”

28 When Jubayr bin Mutim was marching to Ohod, according to the Rauzat al-Safa, in revenge for the death of his uncle Taymah, he offered manumission to his slave Wahshi, who was noted for the use of the Abyssinian spear, if he slew Hamzah. The slave sat in ambush behind a rock, and when the hero had despatched one Siba’a bin Abd al-Ayiz, of Meccah, he threw a javelin which pierced his navel and came out of his back. The wounded man advanced towards his assassin, who escaped. Hamzah then fell, and his friends coming up, found him dead. Wahshi waited till he saw an opportunity, drew the javelin from the body, and mutilated it, in order to present trophies to the ferocious Hinda (mother of Mu’awiyah), whose father Utbah had been slain by Hamzah. The amazon insisted upon seeing the corpse: having presented her necklace and bracelets to Wahshi, she supplied their place with the nose, the ears, and other parts of the dead hero. After mangling the body in a disgusting manner, she ended by tearing open the stomach and biting the liver, whence she was called “Akkalat al-Akbad.” When Mohammed saw the state of his father’s brother, he was sadly moved. Presently comforted by the inspirations brought by Gabriel, he cried, “It is written among the people of the seven Heavens, Hamzah, son of Muttalib, is the Lion of Allah, and the Lion of his Prophet,” and ordered him to be shrouded and prayed over him, beginning, says the Jazb al-Kulub, with seventy repetitions of “Allah Akbar.” Ali had brought in his shield some water for Mohammed, from a Mahras or stone trough, which stood near the scene of action (M.C. de Perceval translates it “un creux de rocher formant un bassin naturel”). But the Prophet refused to drink it, and washed with it the blood from the face of him “martyred by the side of the Mahras.” It was of the Moslems slain at Ohod, according to Abu Da’ud, that the Prophet declared that their souls should be carried in the crops of green birds, that they might drink of the waters and taste the fruits of Paradise, and nestle beneath the golden lamps that hang from the celestial ceiling. He also forbade, on this occasion, the still popular practice of mutilating an enemy’s corpse.

29 The Prophet preferred women and young boys to pray privately, and in some parts of Al-Islam they are not allowed to join a congregation. At Al-Madinah, however, it is no longer, as in Burckhardt’s time, “thought very indecorous in women to enter the Mosque.”

30 I have heard of a Persian being beaten to death, because instead of saying “Peace be with thee, Ya Omar,” he insisted upon saying “Peace be with thee, Ya Humar (O ass!)” A favourite trick is to change “Razi Allahu anhu-may Allah be satisfied with him!” — to “Razi Allahu Aan.” This last word is not to be found in Richardson, but any “Luti” from Shiraz or Isfahan can make it intelligible to the curious linguist.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51