Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, by Richard Burton

Chapter XXX.

The Ceremonies of the Yaum Nahr, or the Third Day.

AT dawn on the id al-Kurban (10th Zu’l Hijjah, Wednesday, 14th September) a gun warned us to lose no time; we arose hurriedly, and started up the Batn Muhassir to Muna. By this means we lost at Muzdalifah the “Salat al-id,” or “Festival Prayers,” the great solemnity of the Moslem year, performed by all the community at daybreak. My companion was so anxious to reach Meccah, that he would not hear of devotions. About eight A.M. we entered the village, and looked for the boy Mohammed in vain. Old Ali was dreadfully perplexed; a host of high-born Turkish pilgrims were, he said, expecting him; his mule was missing — could never appear — he must be late — should probably never reach Meccah — what would become of him? I began by administering admonition to the mind diseased; but signally failing in a cure, I amused myself with contemplating the world from my Shugduf, leaving the office of directing it to the old Zemzemi. Now he stopped, then he pressed forward; here he thought he saw Mohammed, there he discovered our tent; at one time he would “nakh” the camel to await, in patience, his supreme hour; at another, half mad with nervousness, he would urge the excellent Mas’ud to hopeless inquiries. Finally, by good fortune, we found one of the boy Mohammed’s cousins, who led us to an enclosure called Hosh al-Uzam, in the Southern portion of the Muna Basin, at the base of Mount Sabir.1 There we pitched the tent, refreshed ourselves, and awaited the truant’s return. Old Ali, failing to disturb my equanimity, attempted, as those who consort with philosophers often will do, to quarrel with me. But, finding no material wherewith to build a dispute in such fragments as “Ah!”—“Hem!”—“Wallah!” he hinted desperate intentions against the boy Mohammed. When, however, the youth appeared, with even more jauntiness of mien than usual, Ali bin Ya Sin lost heart, brushed by him, mounted his mule, and, doubtless cursing us “under the tongue,” rode away, frowning viciously, with his heels playing upon the beast’s ribs.

Mohammed had been delayed, he said, by the difficulty of finding asses. We were now to mount for “the Throwing,2” as a preliminary to which we washed “with seven waters” the seven pebbles brought from Muzdalifah, and bound them in our Ihrams. Our first destination was the entrance to the western end of the long line which composes the Muna village. We found a swarming crowd in the narrow road opposite the “Jamrat al-Akabah,3” or, as it is vulgarly called, the Shaytan al-Kabir — the “Great Devil.” These names distinguish it from another pillar, the “Wusta,” or “Central Place,” (of stoning,) built in the middle of Muna, and a third at the eastern end, “Al-Aula,” or the “First Place.4” The “Shaytan al-Kabir” is a dwarf buttress of rude masonry, about eight feet high by two and a half broad, placed against a rough wall of stones at the Meccan entrance to Muna. As the ceremony of “Ramy,” or Lapidation, must be performed on the first day by all pilgrims between sunrise and sunset, and as the fiend was malicious enough to appear in a rugged Pass,5 the crowd makes the place dangerous. On one side of the road, which is not forty feet broad, stood a row of shops belonging principally to barbers. On the other side is the rugged wall against which the pillar stands, with a chevaux de frise of Badawin and naked boys. The narrow space was crowded with pilgrims, all struggling like drowning men to approach as near as possible to the Devil; it would have been easy to run over the heads of the mass. Amongst them were horsemen with rearing chargers. Badawin on wild camels, and grandees on mules and asses, with outrunners, were breaking a way by assault and battery. I had read Ali Bey’s self-felicitations upon escaping this place with “only two wounds in the left leg,” and I had duly provided myself with a hidden dagger. The precaution was not useless. Scarcely had my donkey entered the crowd than he was overthrown by a dromedary, and I found myself under the stamping and roaring beast’s stomach. Avoiding being trampled upon by a judicious use of the knife, I lost no time in escaping from a place so ignobly dangerous. Some Moslem travellers assert, in proof of the sanctity of the spot, that no Moslem is ever killed here: Meccans assured me that accidents are by no means rare.

Stoning the “Great Devil”

Presently the boy Mohammed fought his way out of the crowd with a bleeding nose. We both sat down upon a bench before a barber’s booth, and, schooled by adversity, awaited with patience an opportunity. Finding an opening, we approached within about five cubits of the place, and holding each stone between the thumb and the forefinger6 of the right hand, we cast it at the pillar, exclaiming, “In the name of Allah, and Allah is Almighty! (I do this) in Hatred of the Fiend and to his Shame.” After which came the Tahlil and the “Sana,” or praise to Allah. The seven stones being duly thrown, we retired, and entering the barber’s booth, took our places upon one of the earthern benches around it. This was the time to remove the Ihram or pilgrim’s garb, and to return to Ihlal, the normal state of Al-Islam. The barber shaved our heads,7 and, after trimming our beards and cutting our nails, made us repeat these words: “I purpose loosening my Ihram according to the Practice of the Prophet, Whom may Allah bless and preserve! O Allah, make unto me in every Hair, a Light, a Purity, and a generous Reward! In the name of Allah, and Allah is Almighty!” At the conclusion of his labour, the barber politely addressed to us a “Na’iman — Pleasure to you!” To which we as ceremoniously replied, “Allah give thee pleasure!” We had no clothes with us, but we could use our cloths to cover our heads, and slippers to defend our feet from the fiery sun; and we now could safely twirl our mustachios and stroke our beards — placid enjoyments of which we had been deprived by the Laws of Pilgrimage. After resting about an hour in the booth, which, though crowded with sitting customers, was delightfully cool compared with the burning glare of the road, we mounted our asses, and at eleven A.M. we started Meccah-wards.

This return from Muna to Meccah is called Al-Nafr, or the Flight8: we did not fail to keep our asses at speed, with a few halts to refresh ourselves with gugglets of water. There was nothing remarkable in the scene: our ride in was a repetition of our ride out. In about half an hour we entered the city, passing through that classical locality called “Batn Kuraysh,” which was crowded with people, and then we repaired to the boy Mohammed’s house for the purpose of bathing and preparing to visit the Ka’abah.

Shortly after our arrival, the youth returned home in a state of excitement, exclaiming, “Rise, Effendi! dress and follow me!” The Ka’abah, though open, would for a time be empty, so that we should escape the crowd. My pilgrim’s garb, which had not been removed, was made to look neat and somewhat Indian, and we sallied forth together without loss of time.

A crowd had gathered round the Ka’abah, and I had no wish to stand bareheaded and barefooted in the midday September sun. At the cry of “Open a path for the Haji who would enter the House,” the gazers made way. Two stout Meccans, who stood below the door, raised me in their arms, whilst a third drew me from above into the building. At the entrance I was accosted by several officials, dark-looking Meccans, of whom the blackest and plainest was a youth of the Benu Shaybah family,9 the sangre-azul of Al-Hijaz. He held in his hand the huge silver-gilt padlock of the Ka’abah,10 and presently taking his seat upon a kind of wooden press in the left corner of the hall, he officially inquired my name, nation, and other particulars. The replies were satisfactory, and the boy Mohammed was authoritatively ordered to conduct me round the building, and to recite the prayers. I will not deny that, looking at the windowless walls, the officials at the door, and the crowd of excited fanatics below —

“And the place death, considering who I was,”11

my feelings were of the trapped-rat description, acknowledged by the immortal nephew of his uncle Perez. This did not, however, prevent my carefully observing the scene during our long prayers, and making a rough plan with a pencil upon my white Ihram.

Nothing is more simple than the interior of this celebrated building. The pavement, which is level with the ground, is composed of slabs of fine and various coloured marbles, mostly, however, white, disposed chequerwise. The walls, as far as they can be seen, are of the same material, but the pieces are irregularly shaped, and many of them are engraved with long inscriptions in the Suls and other modern characters. The upper part of the walls, together with the ceiling, at which it is considered disrespectful to look,12 are covered with handsome red damask, flowered over with gold,13 and tucked up about six feet high, so as to be removed from pilgrims’ hands. The flat roof is upheld by three cross-beams, whose shapes appear under the arras; they rest upon the eastern and western walls, and are supported in the centre by three columns14 about twenty inches in diameter, covered with carved and ornamented aloes wood.15 At the Iraki corner there is a dwarf door, called Bab al-Taubah (of Repentance).16 It leads into a narrow passage and to the staircase by which the servants ascend to the roof: it is never opened except for working purposes. The “Aswad” or “As’ad17” corner is occupied by a flat-topped and quadrant-shaped press or safe,18 in which at times is placed the key of the Ka’abah.19 Both door and safe are of aloes wood. Between the columns, and about nine feet from the ground, ran bars of a metal which I could not distinguish, and hanging to them were many lamps, said to be of gold.

Although there were in the Ka’abah but a few attendants engaged in preparing it for the entrance of pilgrims,20 the windowless stone walls and the choked-up door made it worse than the Piombi of Venice; perspiration trickled in large drops, and I thought with horror what it must be when filled with a mass of furiously jostling and crushing fanatics. Our devotions consisted of a two-bow prayer,21 followed by long supplications at the Shami (West) corner, the Iraki (north) angle, the Yamani (south), and, lastly, opposite the southern third of the back wall.22 These concluded, I returned to the door, where payment is made. The boy Mohammed told me that the total expense would be seven dollars. At the same time he had been indulging aloud in his favourite rhodomontade, boasting of my greatness, and had declared me to be an Indian pilgrim, a race still supposed at Meccah to be made of gold.23 When seven dollars were tendered, they were rejected with instance. Expecting something of the kind, I had been careful to bring no more than eight. Being pulled and interpellated by half a dozen attendants, my course was to look stupid, and to pretend ignorance of the language. Presently the Shaybah youth bethought him of a contrivance. Drawing forth from the press the key of the Ka’abah, he partly bared it of its green-silk gold-lettered etui,24 and rubbed a golden knob quartrefoil-shaped upon my eyes, in order to brighten them. I submitted to the operation with a good grace, and added a dollar — my last — to the former offering. The Sharif received it with a hopeless glance, and, to my satisfaction, would not put forth his hand to be kissed. Then the attendants began to demand vails I replied by opening my empty pouch. When let down from the door by the two brawny Meccans, I was expected to pay them, and accordingly appointed to meet them at the boy Mohammed’s house; an arrangement to which they grumblingly assented. When delivered from these troubles, I was congratulated by my sharp companion thus: “Wallah, Effendi! thou hast escaped well! some men have left their skins behind.25

All pilgrims do not enter the Ka’abah26; and many refuse to do so for religious reasons. Omar Effendi, for instance, who never missed a pilgrimage, had never seen the interior.27 Those who tread the hallowed floor are bound, among many other things, never again to walk barefooted, to take up fire with the fingers, or to tell lies. Most really conscientious men cannot afford the luxuries of slippers, tongs, and truth. So thought Thomas, when offered the apple which would give him the tongue which cannot lie:—

“‘My tongue is mine ain,’ true Thomas said.

‘A gudely gift ye wad gie to me!

I neither dought to buy nor sell

At fair or tryst, where I may be,

I dought neither speak to prince or peer,

Nor ask of grace from fair ladye!’”

Amongst the Hindus I have met with men who have proceeded upon a pilgrimage to Dwarka, and yet who would not receive the brand of the god, because lying would then be forbidden to them. A confidential servant of a friend in Bombay naïvely declared that he had not been marked, as the act would have ruined him. There is a sad truth in what he said: Lying to the Oriental is meat and drink, and the roof that shelters him.

The Ka’abah had been dressed in her new attire when we entered.28 The covering, however, instead of being secured at the bottom to the metal rings in the basement, was tucked up by ropes from the roof, and depended over each face in two long tongues. It was of a brilliant black, and the Hizam — the zone or golden band running round the upper portion of the building — as well as the Burka (face-veil), were of dazzling brightness.29

The origin of this custom must be sought in the ancient practice of typifying the church visible by a virgin or bride. The poet Abd al-Rahim al Bura’i, in one of his Gnostic effusions, has embodied the idea:—


“And Meccah’s bride (i.e. the Ka’abah) is displayed with (miraculous) signs.”

This idea doubtless led to the face-veil, the covering, and the guardianship of eunuchs.

The Meccan temple was first dressed as a mark of honour by Tobba the Himyarite when he Judaized.30 If we accept this fact, which is vouched for by Oriental history, we are led to the conclusion that the children of Israel settled at Meccah had connected the temple with their own faith, and, as a corollary, that the prophet of Al-Islam introduced their apocryphal traditions into his creed. The pagan Arabs did not remove the coverings: the old and torn Kiswah was covered with a new cloth, and the weight threatened to crush the building.31 From the time of Kusay, the Ka’abah was veiled by subscription, till Abu Rabi’at al-Mughayrah bin Abdullah, who, having acquired great wealth by commerce, offered to provide the Kiswah on alternate years, and thereby gained the name of Al-adil. The Prophet preferred a covering of fine Yaman cloth, and directed the expense to be defrayed by the Bayt al-Mal, or public treasury. Omar chose Egyptian linen, ordering the Kiswah to be renewed every year, and the old covering to be distributed among the pilgrims. In the reign of Osman, the Ka’abah was twice clothed, in winter and summer. For the former season, it received a Kamis, or Tobe (shirt) of brocade; with an Izar, or veil: for the latter a suit of fine linen. Mu’awiyah at first supplied linen and brocade; he afterwards exchanged the former for striped Yaman stuff, and ordered Shaybah bin Osman to strip the Ka’abah and to perfume the walls with Khaluk. Shaybah divided the old Kiswah among the pilgrims, and Abdullah bin Abbas did not object to this distribution.32 The Caliph Ma’amun (9th century) ordered the dress to be changed three times a year. In his day it was red brocade on the 10th Muharram; fine linen on the 1st Rajab; and white brocade on the 1st Shawwal. At last he was informed that the veil applied on the 10th of Muharram was too closely followed by the red brocade in the next month, and that it required renewing on the 1st of Shawwal. This he ordered to be done. Al-Mutawakkil (ninth century), when informed that the dress was spoiled by pilgrims, at first ordered two to be given and the brocade shirt to be let down as far as the pavement: at last he sent a new veil every two months. During the Caliphat of the Abbasides this investiture came to signify sovereignty in Al-Hijaz, which passed alternately from Baghdad to Egypt and Al-Yaman. In Al-Idrisi’s time (twel[f]th century A.D.) the Kiswah was composed of black silk, and renewed every year by the Caliph of Baghdad. Ibn Jubayr writes that it was green and gold. The Kiswah remained with Egypt when Sultan Kalaun33 (thirteenth century A.D.) conveyed the rents of two villages, “Baysus” and “Sindbus,34” to the expense of providing an outer black and an inner red curtain for the Ka’abah, with hangings for the Prophet’s tomb at Al-Madinah. When the Holy Land fell under the power of Osmanli, Sultan Salim ordered the Kiswah to be black; and his son Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent (sixteenth century A.D.), devoted considerable sums to the purpose. The Kiswah was afterwards renewed at the accession of each Sultan. And the Wahhabis, during the first year of their conquest, covered the Ka’abah with a red Kiswah of the same stuff as the fine Arabian Aba or cloak, and made at Al-Hasa.

The Kiswah is now worked at a cotton manufactory called Al-Khurunfish, of the Tumn Bab al-Sha’ariyah, Cairo. It is made by a hereditary family, called the Bayt al-Sadi, and, as the specimen in my possession proves, it is a coarse tissue of silk and cotton mixed. The Kiswah is composed of eight pieces — two for each face of the Ka’abah — the seams being concealed by the Hizam, a broad band, which at a distance looks like gold; it is lined with white calico, and is supplied with cotton ropes. Anciently it is said all the Koran was interwoven into it. Now, it is inscribed “Verily, the First of Houses founded for Mankind (to worship in) is that at Bekkah35; blessed and a Direction to all Creatures”; together with seven chapters, namely, the Cave, Mariam, the Family of Amran, Repentance, T.H. with Y.S. and Tabarak. The character is that called Tumar, the largest style of Eastern calligraphy, legible from a considerable distance.36 The Hizam is a band about two feet broad, and surrounding the Ka’abah at two-thirds of its height. It is divided into four pieces, which are sewn together. On the first and second is inscribed the “Throne verslet,” and on the third and fourth the titles of the reigning Sultan. These inscriptions are, like the Burka, or door curtain, gold worked into red silk, by the Bayt al-Sadi. When the Kiswah is ready at Khurunfish, it is carried in procession to the Mosque Al-Hasanayn, where it is lined, sewn, and prepared for the journey.37

After quitting the Ka’abah, I returned home exhausted, and washed with henna and warm water, to mitigate the pain of the sun-scalds upon my arms, shoulders, and breast. The house was empty, all the Turkish pilgrims being still at Muna; and the Kabirah — the old lady — received me with peculiar attention. I was ushered into an upper room, whose teak wainscotings, covered with Cufic and other inscriptions, large carpets, and ample Diwans, still showed a sort of ragged splendour. The family had “seen better days,” the Sharif Ghalib having confiscated three of its houses; but it is still proud, and cannot merge the past into the present. In the “drawing-room,” which the Turkish colonel occupied when at Meccah, the Kabirah supplied me with a pipe, coffee, cold water, and breakfast. I won her heart by praising the graceless boy Mohammed; like all mothers, she dearly loved the scamp of the family. When he entered, and saw his maternal parent standing near me, with only the end of her veil drawn over her mouth, he began to scold her with divers insinuations. “Soon thou wilt sit amongst the men in the hall!” he exclaimed. “O, my son,” rejoined the Kabirah, “fear Allah: thy mother is in years!”— and truly she was so, being at least fifty. “A-a-h” sneered the youth, who had formed, as boys of the world must do, or appear to do, a very low estimate of the sex. The old lady understood the drift of the exclamation, and departed with a half-laughing “May Allah disappoint thee!” She soon, however, returned, bringing me water for ablution; and having heard that I had not yet sacrificed a sheep at Muna, enjoined me to return and perform without delay that important rite.

After resuming our laical toilette, and dressing gaily for the great festival, we mounted our asses about the cool of the afternoon, and, returning to Muna, we found the tent full of visitors. Ali ibn Ya Sin, the Zemzemi, had sent me an amphora of holy water, and the carrier was awaiting the customary dollar. With him were several Meccans, one of whom spoke excellent Persian. We sat down, and chatted together for an hour; and I afterwards learned from the boy Mohammed, that all had pronounced me to be an ’Ajami.

After their departure we debated about the victim, which is only a Sunnat, or practice of the Prophet.38 It is generally sacrificed immediately after the first lapidation, and we had already been guilty of delay. Under these circumstances, and considering the meagre condition of my purse, I would not buy a sheep, but contented myself with watching my neighbours. They gave themselves great trouble, especially a large party of Indians pitched near us, to buy the victim cheap; but the Badawin were not less acute, and he was happy who paid less than a dollar and a quarter. Some preferred contributing to buy a lean ox. None but the Sharif and the principal dignitaries slaughtered camels. The pilgrims dragged their victims to a smooth rock near the Akabah, above which stands a small open pavilion, whose sides, red with fresh blood, showed that the prince and his attendants had been busy at sacrifice. 39 Others stood before their tents, and, directing the victim’s face towards the Ka’abah, cut its throat, ejaculating, “Bismillah! Allaho Akbar40

The boy Mohammed sneeringly directed my attention to the Indians, who, being a mild race, had hired an Arab butcher to do the deed of blood; and he aroused all Shaykh Nur’s ire by his taunting comments upon the chicken-heartedness of the men of Hind. It is considered a meritorious act to give away the victim without eating any portion of its flesh. Parties of Takruri might be seen sitting vulture-like, contemplating the sheep and goats; and no sooner was the signal given, than they fell upon the bodies, and cut them up without removing them. The surface of the valley soon came to resemble the dirtiest slaughter-house, and my prescient soul drew bad auguries for the future.

We had spent a sultry afternoon in the basin of Muna, which is not unlike a volcanic crater, an Aden closed up at the seaside. Towards night the occasional puffs of Samum ceased, and through the air of deadly stillness a mass of purple nimbus, bisected by a thin grey line of mist-cloud, rolled down upon us from the Taif hills. When darkness gave the signal, most of the pilgrims pressed towards the square in front of the Muna Mosque, to enjoy the pyrotechnics and the discharge of cannon. But during the spectacle came on a windy storm, whose lightnings, flashing their fire from pole to pole paled the rockets; and whose thunderings, re-echoed by the rocky hills, dumbed the puny artillery of man. We were disappointed in our hopes of rain. A few huge drops pattered upon the plain and sank into its thirsty entrails; all the rest was thunder and lightning, dust-clouds and whirlwind.

1 Even pitching ground here is charged to pilgrims.

2 Some authorities advise that this rite of “Ramy” be performed on foot.

3 The word “Jamrah” is applied to the place of stoning, as well as to the stones.

4 These numbers mark the successive spots where the Devil, in the shape of an old Shaykh, appeared to Adam, Abraham, and Ishmael, and was driven back by the simple process taught by Gabriel, of throwing stones about the size of a bean.

5 I borrow this phrase from Ali Bey, who, however, speaks more like an ignorant Catalonian than a learned Abbaside, when he calls the pillar “La Maison du Diable,” and facetiously asserts that “le diable a eu la malice de placer sa maison dans un lieu fort etroit qui n’a peut-etre pas 34 pieds de large.”

6 Some hold the pebble as a schoolboy does a marble, others between the thumb and forefinger extended, others shoot them from the thumb knuckle, and most men consult their own convenience.

7 The barber removed all my hair. Hanifis shave at least a quarter of the head, Shafe’is a few hairs on the right side. The prayer is, as usual, differently worded, some saying, “O Allah this my Forelock is in Thy Hand, then grant me for every Hair a Light on Resurrection-day, by Thy Mercy O most Merciful of the Merciful!” I remarked that the hair was allowed to lie upon the ground, whereas strict Moslems, with that reverence for man’s body — the Temple of the Supreme — which characterizes their creed, carefully bury it in the earth.

8 This word is confounded with “Dafa” by many Moslem authors. Some speak of the Nafr from Arafat to Muzdalifah and the Dafa from Muzdalifah to Muna. I have used the words as my Mutawwif used them.

9 They keep the keys of the House. In my day the head of the family was “Shaykh Ahmad.”

10 In Ibn Jubayr’s time this large padlock was of gold. It is said popularly that none but the Benu Shaybah can open it; a minor miracle, doubtless proceeding from the art of some Eastern Hobbs or Bramah.

11 However safe a Christian might be at Meccah, nothing could preserve him from the ready knives of enraged fanatics if detected in the House. The very idea is pollution to a Moslem.

12 I do not known the origin of this superstition; but it would be unsafe for a pilgrim to look fixedly at the Ka’abah ceiling. Under the arras I was told is a strong planking of Saj, or Indian teak, and above it a stuccoed Sath, or flat roof.

13 Exactly realising the description of our English bard:—

“Goodly arras of great majesty,

Woven with gold and silk so close and nere,

That the rich metal lurked privily,

As feigning to be hid from envious eye.”

14 Ibn Jubayr mentions three columns of teak. Burckhardt and Ali Bey, two. In Al-Fasi’s day there were four. The Kuraysh erected six columns in double row. Generally the pillars have been three in number.

15 This wood, which has been used of old to ornament sacred buildings in the East, is brought to Meccah in great quantities by Malay and Java pilgrims. The best kind is known by its oily appearance and a “fizzing” sound in fire; the cunning vendors easily supply it with these desiderata.

16 Ibn Jubayr calls it Bab al-Rahmah.

17 The Hajar al-Aswad is also called Al-As’ad, or the Propitious.

18 Here, in Ibn Jubayr’s time, stood two boxes full of Korans.

19 The key is sometimes placed in the hands of a child of the house of Shaybah, who sits in state, with black slaves on both sides.

20 In Ibn Jubayr’s day the Ka’abah was opened with more ceremony. The ladder was rolled up to the door, and the chief of the Benu Shaybah, ascending it, was covered by attendants with a black veil from head to foot, whilst he opened the padlock. Then, having kissed the threshold, he entered, shut the door behind him, and prayed two Rukats; after which, all the Benu Shaybah, and, lastly, the vulgar were admitted. In these day the veil is obsolete. The Shaykh enters the Ka’abah alone, perfumes it and prays; the pilgrims are then admitted en masse; and the style in which the eunuchs handle their quarter-staves forms a scene more animated than decorous.

21 Some pray four instead of two bows.

22 Burckhardt erroneously says, “in every corner.”

23 These Indians are ever in extremes, paupers or millionaires, and, like all Moslems, the more they pay at Meccah the higher becomes their character and religious titles. A Turkish Pasha seldom squanders as much money as does a Moslem merchant from the far East. Khudabakhsh, the Lahore shawl-dealer, owned to having spent 800l. in feastings and presents. He appeared to consider that sum a trifle, although, had a debtor carried off one tithe of it, his health would have been seriously affected.

24 The cover of the key is made, like Abraham’s veil, of three colours, red, black or green. It is of silk, embroidered with golden letters, and upon it are written the Bismillah, the name of the reigning Sultan, “Bag of the key of the holy Ka’abah,” and a verselet from the “Family of Amran” (Koran, ch. 3). It is made, like the Kiswah, at Khurunfish, a place that will be noticed below.

25 “Ecorches”—“pelati;” the idea is common to most imaginative nations.

26 The same is the case at Al-Madinah; many religious men object on conscientious grounds to enter the Prophet’s mosque. The poet quoted below made many visitations to Al-Madinah, but never could persuade himself to approach the tomb. The Esquire Carver saw two young Turks who had voluntarily had their eyes thrust out at Meccah as soon as they had seen the glory and visible sanctity of the tomb of Mohammed. I “doubt the fact,” which thus appears ushered in by a fiction.

27 I have not thought it necessary to go deep into the list of “Muharramat,” or actions forbidden to the pilgrim who has entered the Ka’abah. They are numerous and meaningless.

28 The use of the feminine pronoun is explained below. When unclothed, the Ka’abah is called Uryanah (naked), in opposition to its normal state, “Muhramah,” or clad in Ihram. In Burckhardt’s time the house remained naked for fifteen days; now the investiture is effected in a few hours.

29 The gold-embroidered curtain covering the Ka’abah door is called by the learned “Burka al-Ka’abah” (the Ka’abah’s face-veil), by the vulgar Burka Fatimah; they connect it in idea with the Prophet’s daughter.

30 The pyramids, it is said, were covered from base to summit with yellow silk or satin.

31 At present the Kiswah, it need scarcely be said, does not cover the flat roof.

32 Ayishah also, when Shaybah proposed to bury the old Kiswah, that it might not be worn by the impure, directed him to sell it, and to distribute the proceeds to the poor. The Meccans still follow the first half, but neglect the other part of the order given by the “Mother of the Moslems.” Kazi Khan advises the proceeds of the sale being devoted to the repairs of the temple. The “Siraj al-Wahhaj” positively forbids, as sinful, the cutting, transporting, selling, buying, and placing it between the leaves of the Koran. Kutb al-Din (from whom I borrow these particulars) introduces some fine and casuistic distinctions. In his day, however, the Benu Shaybah claimed the old, after the arrival of the new Kiswah; and their right to it was admitted. To the present day they continue to sell it.

33 Some authors also mention a green Kiswah, applied by this monarch. Embroidered on it were certain verselets of the Koran, the formula of the Moslem faith, and the names of the Prophet’s Companions.

34 Burckhardt says “Bysous” and “Sandabeir.”

35 From the “Family of Amran” (chap. 3). “Bekkah” is “a place of crowding”; hence applied to Meccah generally. Some writers, however, limit it to the part of the city round the Harim.

36 It is larger than the suls. Admirers of Eastern calligraphy may see a “Bismillah,” beautifully written in Tumar, on the wall of Sultan Mu’ayyad’s Mosque at Cairo.

37 Mr. Lane (Mod. Egypt. vol. iii. chap. 25) has given an ample and accurate description of the Kiswah. I have added a few details, derived from “Khalil Effendi” of Cairo, a professor of Arabic, and an excellent French scholar.

38 Those who omit the rite fast ten days; three during the pilgrimage season, and the remaining seven at some other time.

39 The camel is sacrificed by thrusting a pointed instrument into the interval between the sternum and the neck. This anomaly may be accounted for by the thickness and hardness of the muscles of the throat.

40 It is strange that the accurate Burckhardt should make the Moslem say, when slaughtering or sacrificing, “In the name of the most Merciful God!” As Mr. Lane justly observes, the attribute of mercy is omitted on these occasions.


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