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PERSONAL NARRATIVE OF A PILGRIMAGE TO AL-MADINAH & MECCAH
CAPTAIN SIR RICHARD F. BURTON,
K.C.M.G., F.R.G.S., &c., &c., &c.
EDITED BY HIS WIFE, ISABEL BURTON.
“Our notions of Mecca must be drawn from the Arabians; as no unbeliever is permitted to enter the city, our travellers are silent.”—Gibbon, chap. 50.
IN TWO VOLUMES
[p.xii] [Arabic] Dark and the Desert and Destriers me ken, And the Glaive and the Joust, and Paper and Pen. Al-Mutanabbi
[p.1] A PILGRIMAGE
AL-MADINAH AND MECCAH.
THE PEOPLE OF AL-MADINAH.
AL-MADINAH contains but few families descended from the Prophet’s Auxiliaries. I heard only of four whose genealogy is undoubted. These were,—
1. The Bayt al-Ansari, or descendants of Abu Ayyub, a most noble race whose tree ramifies through a space of fifteen hundred years. They keep the keys of the Kuba Mosque, and are Imams in the Harim, but the family is no longer wealthy or powerful.
2. The Bayt Abu Jud: they supply the Harim with Imams and Mu’ezzins.[FN#l] I was told that there are now but two surviving members of this family, a boy and a girl.
3. The Bayt al-Sha’ab, a numerous race. Some of the members travel professionally, others trade, and others are employed in the Harim.
4. The Bayt al-Karrani, who are mostly engaged in commerce.
There is also a race called Al-Nakhawilah,[FN#2] who,
[p.2]according to some, are descendants of the Ansar, whilst others derive them from Yazid, the son of Mu’awiyah: the latter opinion is improbable, as the Caliph in question was a mortal foe to Ali’s family, which is inordinately venerated by these people. As far as I could ascertain, they abuse the Shaykhayn (Abu Bakr and Omar): all my informants agreed upon this point, but none could tell me why they neglected to bedevil Osman, the third object of hatred to the Shi’ah persuasion. They are numerous and warlike, yet they are despised by the townspeople, because they openly profess heresy, and are moreover of humble degree. They have their own priests and instructors, although subject to the orthodox Kazi; marry in their own sect, are confined to low offices, such as slaughtering animals, sweeping, and gardening, and are not allowed to enter the Harim during life, or to be carried to it after death. Their corpses are taken down an outer street called the Darb al-Janazah—Road of Biers—to their own cemetery near Al-Bakia. They dress and speak Arabic, like the townspeople; but the Arabs pretend to distinguish them by a peculiar look denoting their degradation: it is doubtless the mistake of effect for cause, about all such
“Tribes of the wandering foot and weary breast.” number of reports are current about the horrid
[p.3]customs of these people, and their community of women[FN#3] with the Persian pilgrims who pass through the town. It need scarcely be said that such tales coming from the mouths of fanatic foes are not to be credited. I regret not having had an opportunity to become intimate with any of the Nakhawilah, from whom curious information might be elicited. Orthodox Moslems do not like to be questioned about such hateful subjects; when I attempted to learn something from one of my acquaintance, Shaykh Ula al-Din, of a Kurd family, settled at Al-Madinah, a man who had travelled over the East, and who spoke five languages to perfection, he coldly replied that he had never consorted with these heretics. Sayyids and Sharifs,[FN#4] the descendants of the Prophet, here abound. The Benu Hosayn of Al-Madinah have their head-quarters at Suwayrkiyah:[FN#5] the former place contains six or seven families; the latter, ninety-three or ninety-four. Anciently they were much more numerous, and such was their power, that for centuries they retained charge of the Prophet’s tomb. They
[p.4]subsist principally upon their Amlak, property in land, for which they have title-deeds extending back to Mohammed’s day, and Aukaf, religious bequests; popular rumour accuses them of frequent murders for the sake of succession. At Al-Madinah they live chiefly at the Hosh Ibn Sa’ad, a settlement outside the town and south of the Darb al-Janazah. There is, however, no objection to their dwelling within the walls; and they are taken to the Harim after death, if there be no evil report against the individual. Their burial-place is the Bakia cemetery. The reason of this toleration is, that some are supposed to be Sunni, or orthodox, and even the most heretical keep their “Rafz[FN#6]” (heresy) a profound secret. Most learned Arabs believe that they belong, like the Persians, to the sect of Ali: the truth, however, is so vaguely known, that I could find out none of the peculiarities of their faith, till I met a Shirazi friend at Bombay. The Benu Hosayn are spare dark men of Badawi appearance, and they dress in the old Arab style still affected by the Sharifs,—a Kufiyah (kerchief) on the head,[FN#7] and a Banish, a long and wide-sleeved garment resembling our magicians’ gown, thrown over the white cotton Kamis (shirt): in public they always carry swords, even when others leave weapons at home. There are about two hundred families of Sayyid Alawiyah,—descendants of Ali by any of his wives but Fatimah, they bear no distinctive mark in dress or appearance, and are either employed at the
[p.5]temple or engage at trade. Of the Khalifiyah, or descendants of Abbas, there is, I am told, but one household, the Bayt Al-Khalifah, who act as Imams in the Harim, and have charge of Hamzah’s tomb. Some declare that there are a few of the Siddikiyah, or descendants from Abu Bakr; others ignore them, and none could give me any information about the Benu Najjar.
The rest of the population of Al-Madinah is a motley race composed of offshoots from every nation in Al-Islam. The sanctity of the city attracts strangers, who, purposing to stay but a short time, become residents; after finding some employment, they marry, have families, die, and are buried there with an eye to the spiritual advantages of the place. I was much importuned to stay at Al-Madinah. The only known physician was one Shaykh Abdullah Sahib, an Indian, a learned man, but of so melancholic a temperament, and so ascetic in his habits, that his knowledge was entirely lost to the public. “Why dost thou not,” said my friends, “hire a shop somewhere near the Prophet’s Mosque? There thou wilt eat bread by thy skill, and thy soul will have the blessing of being on holy ground.” Shaykh Nur also opined after a short residence at Al-Madinah that it was bara jannati Shahr, a “very heavenly City,” and little would have induced him to make it his home. The present ruling race at Al-Madinah, in consequence of political vicissitudes, is the “Sufat,[FN#8]” sons of Turkish fathers by Arab mothers. These half-castes are now numerous, and have managed to secure the highest and most lucrative offices. Besides Turks, there are families originally from the Maghrib, Takruris, Egyptians in considerable numbers, settlers from Al-Yaman and other parts of Arabia, Syrians, Kurds, Afghans, Daghistanis from the Caucasus, and a few Jawis—Java Moslems. The Sindis, I was told, reckon about one hundred families, who are exceedingly despised for their
[p.6]cowardice and want of manliness, whilst the Baluch and the Afghan are respected. The Indians are not so numerous in proportion here as at Meccah; still Hindustani is by no means uncommonly heard in the streets. They preserve their peculiar costume, the women persisting in showing their faces, and in wearing tight, exceedingly tight, pantaloons. This, together with other reasons, secures for them the contempt of the Arabs. At Al-Madinah they are generally small shopkeepers, especially druggists and sellers of Kumash (cloth), and they form a society of their own. The terrible cases of misery and starvation which so commonly occur among the improvident Indians at Jeddah and Meccah are here rare.
The Hanafi school holds the first rank at Al-Madinah, as in most parts of Al-Islam, although many of the citizens, and almost all the Badawin, are Shafe’is. The reader will have remarked with astonishment that at one of the fountain-heads of the faith, there are several races of schismatics, the Benu Hosayn, the Benu Ali, and the Nakhawilah. At the town of Safra there are said to be a number of the Zuyud schismatics,[FN#9] who visit Al-Madinah, and have settled in force at Meccah, and some declare that the Bayazi sect[FN#10] also exists.
The citizens of Al-Madinah are a favoured race, although the city is not, like Meccah, the grand mart of the Moslem world or the meeting-place of nations. They pay no taxes, and reject the idea of a “Miri,” or land-cess, with extreme disdain. “Are we, the children of the Prophet,” they exclaim, “to support or to be supported?” The Wahhabis, not understanding the argument, taxed them,
[p.7]as was their wont, in specie and in materials, for which reason the very name of those Puritans is an abomination. As has before been shown, all the numerous attendants at the Mosque are paid partly by the Sultan, partly by Aukaf, the rents of houses and lands bequeathed to the shrine, and scattered over every part of the Moslem world. When a Madani is inclined to travel, he applies to the Mudir al-Harim, and receives from him a paper which entitles him to the receipt of a
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