« PreviousContinue »
HISTORY OF MOHAMMEDANISM.* NUMEROUS as are the histories of Mohammedanism, with which our shelves are piled, the present, intended to be a consideration of the subject, as a corruption of Jewish and Christian documents, is, in this light, “an useful portion of Christian knowledge.” The author, with a candour very creditable to him, states the authorities on which he has constructed his work. He is generally judicious in his selection of Mohammedan traditions from the multitudinous mass, with which the Eastern pages abound, though in the native Tarikhs some still more curious, and others as evidently falsifications of biblical events, might have been found. . At p. 47, he states, that the Moslems so nearly approach to an acknowledgment of our Saviour's Divinity, that
a Persian poet addresses him in strains not unsuited to a Christian hymn.”
To any one, however, conversant with the Koranic commentaries and Mohammedan theology, it is manifest that they approach to no such an admission, but simply regard him in the light of a most favoured prophet; and as to the Persian ode in question, which the author suhjoins in English verse, it is indubitably either a forgery or the production of some Eastern Christian. We should have been glad to have known the Persian's name and to have seen the original words, because the verses, in their translated form, bear few or no marks of the Oriental stamp. Nor can we agree with Mr. Taylor, that the religions of Zerdusht and Buddha were connected, from internal evidence; their object, as far as the subversion of priestly domination, may have been the same; but assuredly their tenets and ceremonies were very distinct. The early history of Zerdusht is likewise involved in too many contradictions and in too much obscurity for us definitively to pronounce, with the author, that he was a Bactrian, rather than a native of one of the other places, which have claimed him; consequently, the geographical observation, which would thus bring Zerdusht to the borders of Tibet, “ where Buddhism has prevailed from remote ages,” is not sufficiently supported to warrant the assumption of the fact. Nevertheless, the picture which Mr. Taylor has drawn of the state of the East before the coming of Mohammed, and of the admixtures of ancient systems and fanciful speculations with Christianity, is vivid and striking in its lineaments.
He next treats of the state of Arabia before and at the tiine of Mohammed's birth; and, after having assigned the formation of towns to temptations of permanent pasture or profitable traffic, he observes, “ that Mecca was built at the intersection of two profitable lines of commerce, one running across the Peninsula, by which the commodities of Africa and India were interchanged; the other connecting Syria and the Southern Provinces of the Greek Empire with Arabia Felix, and the countries round the Indian Ocean. For religion in the East has always been allied with commerce; at every great mart we find a temple erected, whose
* The History of Mohammedanism and its Sects, derived chiefly from Oriental Sources, by W.C. Taylor, B.A., T.C.D. London. 1834. Parker,
sanctity protected traffic, and reverence for which was supposed to insure integrity.” The same observation has been made by Heeren respecting the most celebrated temples and holy places of antiquity, and there is reason to doubt its truth, since the principal caravan-routes were found either passing close by them or in their immediate vicinity. This might have been contrived to answer the double purpose of offering religious rites to the travelling merchants, and of enriching the priests from their stores.
In the account of the promulgation of Islam, we find a strange narrative, founded on the authority of Tabri, that the Jews of Medina became at first favourable to Mohammed, from the notion that he was their promised Messiah, and that tre, perceiving the advantages which would result from this belief, at this particular time, confirmed them in it. This will notion the author implicitly receives.' But we can depend so little on the traditionary materials of even the best Mohammedan authors, and in so many instances find additions in the transcriptions of the same work, that none, unless authenticated by a great weight of other evidence and by inherent probability, should critically be admitted. This is more especially the case with respect to Tabri, whose original work had for centuries been lost, until it was recently discovered by the Russians at Adrianople, parts only, and those parts mutilated, having before merely survived in some of the great libraries of Europe; whilst all that we know of Tabri was derived from Persian and Turkish translations, which so much vary, as in some places to resemble distinct works, and vary still more from those fragments of the original Arabic, to which we have had access. Consequently Tabri, as hitherto known, is probably of all authors the least deserving, under these circumstances, of regard as the sole authority for this singular tradition.
We omit the author's long synopsis of the Mohammedan creed, as it is simply a recapitulation of points often noticed elsewhere, and which Reland and others have already discussed even to satiety. His detail of the first four khaliphs is very succinct and condensed, comprising in a small compass the most valuable and interesting memorabilia of their reigns; and this is no small credit among the multitude of dissertations, histories, and biographies, which have been poured from the press on the same subject. In the whole routine of literature, we doubt whether any point has been more hacknied, and become more trite and jejune, than the history of Islamism; and to give a full account of any work devoted to it, would render the reviewer justly chargeable with dullness. The discussion must necessarily be replete with plagiarisms, with absurd traditions, and unsupported assertions; but the praise, which we award to Mr. Taylor, is that of judgment in his selection, and of brevity without obscurity. We do not indeed perceive, that he has derived materials from untranslated MSS., which alone would afford novelty to the subject; but he has made the best use of the common stock of materials, from which similar productions have been framed. • The history of the Twelve Imáms is well written and entertaining: in this part he has shewn remarkable industry and tact. The chief defect we observe in it, is the scanty account of Moussa, the Seventh Imám, whose calamities are passed over in silence.
His bistory of the Ismaelians, or Assassins, is also a recapitulation of facts well and repeatedly known: but, we can with difficulty agree with him, that the evidence is clear, as to Richard Cæur de Lion having actually been an accessory to the murder of Conrad. The allegation requires a stronger evidence, and a more determinately historical basis, than he has adduced; the current and unsupported rumours, on which the Oriental writers quoted by him founded their tales, deserve no higher character than the fruits of party rancour and the enmity necessarily generated by the gallant deeds of the chivalrous monarch. It would seem to have been more in unison with Richard's fiery character to have avenged personally his own indignation, than to have resorted to the dastardly scheme of assassination; in proof of which, the dispute with the Oriental writers is, whether the assassins belonged to the Sheikh’uljebal or the President of Maszyad. A very considerable part of this account and of that of the Druses, we suspect to have been extracted from the Journal Asiatique. But Mr. Taylor has neglected to avail himself of a mass of valuable materials, which may be found in the Druse catechisms, published by Eichhorn, which reflect more light on their private opinions and religious polity, than all the other works known respecting them. The account of the Wahabis, which follows that of the Druses, is very curtailed and unsatisfactory: it is more like the syllabus of a chapter than a chapter itself. The author has assigned a motive for this in his Preface, namely, a desire to avoid collision with Mr. Crichton's Arabia. Not much more diffuse is that on the monastic orders of Islamism, which, if properly examined, would require a considerable discussion, and might be elucidated at great length from the pages of Eastern authors and European travellers; in fact, we have observed, that, in most of the books published by the different societies or speculators of the present day, sufficient space is not allowed to the author, and worn-cut subjects are consequently vamped up for publication, as if the present generation were content with mere modicums of superficial knowledge, which we should be sorry to suppose is its character, Books of this description can have but an ephemeral success; and in a short time, according to the nature of things and the inquiring propensities of the human mind, will give place to the authorities from which they have been compiled. Compression of matter and levity of style we hold to be among the greatest faults of modern literature. Although certainly the writer of the book under review cannot be charged with the latter, nevertheless, his extent of subject, compared with the small limits of his work, must have induced not only compression, but omission of very important matter. This is particularly to be observed in his description of Mohammedanism in India, in which he has, notwithstanding, presented us with an able and interesting detail of the Sikhs.
His concluding chapter, on the effects of the Mohammedan religion, is more original, and evidently the result of thought and observation: it is Asiat. Jour. N.S.Vol.12. No.48.
correct as a picture, and as full as the author's circumscription could allow it to be. We see, however, very little of the connection of the whole with Christianity, nor do we think that, in this respect, the object stated in the Preface has been realized. The learned, though in this department absurd, labours of Maracci have completely investigated each point of coincidence as well as of corruption : we say absurd, because the opinions of Mohammedans and the Koranic pages, which would so come into consideration, carry with them either proofs of their own origin or their own refutation. So many also have fought in this polemic arena, that we require no more of such gladiatorial exhibitions. In other respects, the knowledge of Mohammedanism cannot be very important to the theological student.
Mr. Taylor's style is terse and elegant, and his reading is evidently extensive; and we hope yet to peruse productions of his pen on some more useful history; for we doubt, if he could have selected one in which it would be necessary to wade through a greater mass of fables and puerilities, before it was possible to string together the distant pearls of historic truth, than that we have examined.
THE OVERLAND JOURNEY FROM INDIA. Dr. James Burnes, who was one of the passengers in the Hugh Lindsay steamer, from Bombay, in letters to his friends, extracts of which are given in a Scotch paper,* has furnished an account of the voyage and journey, from whence we extract some of the most material circumstances.
The steamer sailed on the 1st February, under the command of Capt. Wilson, with an agreeable party of passengers.t She carried thirteen days' supply of coal; her average sailing was not more than six knots an hour, varying from four and a half to eight, although the weather was fine. From Cape Fartash, which was descried on the 9th, the steamer skirted the Arabian shore, along a gloomy and thinly-peopled coast. On the llth, she took in a supply of coals at Maculla, a paltry town of dirty hovels, overlooked by barren mountains of great height, and inhabited by 1,000 or 1,500 half-naked savages, most of whom were armed with swords, daggers, and shields. On visiting the Sheķh or governor and his son, whom they found seated on a mat in the corner of a wretched apartment, during the interview, some negroes among the attendants were offered them for sale by persons in the room.
Owing to rejoicings for the termination of the Ramazaan, the coals could not be got on board till the 13th, when the Hugh Lindsay weighed anchor, and on the 15th entered the Red Sea, the weather being unusually fine; but the next day her progress was checked by a strong N.W. gale off the desert island Jebel Zyghar, and Captain Wilson put back to Mocha. The decline of this celebrated city, owing chiefly to the imbecile and dissolute character of the Iman of Senna, was marked by the absence of ships from its. harbour; an American trader and two Egyptian men of war were all that were seen in the roads. The city itself was in the possession of a body of wild Bedouin Arabs, who had seized and sacked it some days before. The streets were a spectacle of desolation, most of the inhabitants having fled to the desert, and nothing being exposed for sale in the bazaars. The rude Arab chief, however, who had established himself as governor, received our countrymen very civilly.
+ See p. 148, As. Intell., &c.
* The Montrose Review.
Early on the 18th, the steamer resumed her voyage, and continued to propel against a constant gale till the evening of the 22d, when off Jedda, though she could not enter that harbour till next inorning, in consequence of the dangerous coral reefs. The streets, markets, and numerous coffee-houses of Jedda were found full of troops,-the head-quarters of Ahmet Pacha, the generalissimo of the army of the Hedjaz destined for the subjugation of Sonthern Arabia, being then within a few miles of it. The soldiers were armed and disciplined in the French fashion; but were far inferior in every respect to Indian sipahis. There were eight or nine Italian officers with the army; and, strange to say, a St. Simonian Frenchman, who had penetrated into that distant country, with the double purpose of searching for the mère, and disseminating his doctrines. In this lately bigotted city, our travellers overtook the Rev. Joseph Wolff, who preached fearlessly with the Bible in his hand, at one of the chief entrances, to a crowd of at least 200, composed principally of armed soldiers, who offered him no indignity. The European visitors were most courteously received by Suleiman Aga, the governor: they walked without molestation through the Medina gate, to inspect the tomb of Eve, and the cantonment of the troops; and no objection was made (except by some idle children, who threw a few stones at them) to their re-entering by the Mecca gate at sun-set, so as to witness the departure of the pilgrins, which Dr. B. describes as a most interesting spectacle. That day's caravan (for one leaves Jedda every evening for Mecca) consisted of 200 or 300 camels, which carried the aged and infirm amongst the pilgriins, most of whom, however, strode boldly forward, bare-footed and bareheaded. Amongst them were several Persian and Hindostan Mussulmans ; and there were some who, from their countenances, must have met at this spot from the confines of China and Tartary, and the west coast of Africa.
On the 25th, the Hugh Lindsay proceeded on her voyage, and again encountered an almost continual tempest to Cosseir. The decks were constantly wet, and the paddle-boxes broken by the force of the sea, which was so heavy, that her speed at one time was reduced to two or three miles an hour. Late on the evening of the 28th, the land of Egypt was visible at a distance, and at four o'clock on the 1st of March she anchored at Cosseir; from whence, after landing some passengers for Thebes, she again sailed on the 2d, and run a distance of 260 miles, over smooth water, in about thirty-nine hours. Early on the 3d, she entered the Straits of Jubal, and dropped anchor on the morning of the 4th in Suez roads. The Hugh Lindsay had now completed her voyage; and, though struggling for nearly 1000 miles amidst the dangers of the Red Sea, against a strong adverse gale and heavy waves, had run 3242 miles ja 314 days, including stoppages, which amounted to 64. She is, however, described as a vessel unsuited for long passages; and, in addition to the extra weight of coals, was encumbered with two heavy engines of eightyhorse power to a tonnage of little more than 400.
Suez and Cosseir are miserable towns, composed chiefly of clay-built houses, and almost entirely dependent on the pilgrims who pass through them for Mecca. The Cavendish Bentinck, an English ship, having carried away 500 or 600 of these wanderers from the former, a few days before the steamer 'arrived, it looked particularly desolate. The streets of Cosseir, however, were full of well-dressed Mahommedans of all nations; and the number of vessels in its port showed it to be a place of considerable resort, though it can never be a populous town, as it contains no water except what is sold in the bazaars, and