determined on dispensing gifts in charity. The Syaads, however, are under peculiar restrictions as regards the nature of those gifts which they are permitted to accept. Money obtained by unlawful means, as forbidden in the Khoraun (usury for instance), is deemed polluted, and must neither be offered to, nor accepted by, these 'children of the Prophet'.
The Syaads are the Lords of Mussulmaun society, and every female born to them is a Lady (Begum). Heralds' offices they have none, but genealogy is strictly kept in each Mussulmaun family, who can boast the high privilege of bearing the Prophet's blood in their veins. The children of both sexes are taught, from the time of their first speaking intelligibly, to recount their pedigree, up to Hasan, or Hosein, the two sons of Ali, by his cousin Fatima, the daughter of their Prophet: this forms a striking part of their daily education, whilst they continue in their mother's zeenahnah (lady's apartment); and, from the frequent repetition, is so firmly fixed in the memory, that they have no difficulty in tracing their pedigree whenever called upon to do so, unaided by the manuscript genealogy kept with care in the parental treasury.
This method of retaining lineage is not always a check against impostors; many have taken upon themselves the honourable distinction of the Syaad, without having the slightest claim to the title; but when the cheat is discovered such persons are disgraced, and become aliens to the respectable. So many advantages are enjoyed by Syaads, that it is not surprising there should be some, which have no right, anxious to be numbered with those who are truly the Mussulmaun lords; though such men are taught to believe that, by the usurpation, they shut themselves out from the advantages of their Prophet's intercession at the great day of judgment.
The Syaads are very tenacious in retaining the purity of their race unsullied, particularly with respect to their daughters; a conscientious Syaad regards birth before wealth in negotiations for marriage: many a poor lady, in consequence of this prejudice, lives out her numbered days in single blessedness, although—to their honour be it told—many charitably disposed amongst the rich men of the country have, within my recollection of Indian society, granted from their abundance sufficient sums to defray the expenses of a union, and given the marriage portion, unsolicited, to the daughters of the poorer members of this venerated race. A Syaad rarely speaks of his pecuniary distresses, but is most grateful when relieved.
I am intimately acquainted with a family in which this pride of birth predominates over every advantage of interest. There are three unmarried daughters, remarkable for their industrious habits, morality, and strict observance of their religious duties; they are handsome, well-formed women, polite and sensible, and to all this they add an accomplishment which is not by any means general amongst the females of Hindoostaun, they have been taught by their excellent father to read the Khoraun in Arabic—it is not allowed to be translated,—and the Commentary in Persian. The fame of their superiority has brought many applications from the heads of families possessing wealth, and desirous to secure for their sons wives so eminently endowed, who would waive all considerations of the marriage dowry, for the sake of the Begum who might thus adorn their untitled house. All these offers, however, have been promptly rejected, and the young ladies themselves are satisfied in procuring a scanty subsistence by the labour of their hands. I have known them to be employed in working the jaullie (netting) for courties (a part of the female dress), which, after six days' close application, at the utmost could not realize three shillings each; yet I never saw them other than contented, happy, and cheerful,—a family of love, and patterns of sincere piety.
The titles and distinctions conferred by sovereigns, or the Hon. East India Company in India, as Khaun, Bahadhoor, Nuwaub, &c., are not actually hereditary honours, though often presumed on, and indulged in, by successors. The Syaads, on the contrary, are the Meers and Begums (nobility) throughout their generations to the end of time, or at any rate, with the continuance of the Mussulmaun religion.
Having thus far explained the honourable distinction of the Syaads, I propose giving you some account of the Mahurrum, a celebrated mourning festival in remembrance of their first martyrs, and which occupies the attention of the Mussulmauns annually to a degree of zeal that has always attracted the surprise of our countrymen in India; some of whom, I trust, will not be dissatisfied with the observations of an individual, who having spent many years of her life with those who are chief actors in these scenes, it may be expected, is the better able to explain the nature of that Mahurrum which they see commemorated every year, yet many, perhaps, without comprehending exactly why. Those strong expressions of grief—the sombre cast of countenance,—the mourning garb,—the self-inflicted abstinence, submitted to by the Mussulmaun population, during the ten days set apart for the fulfilment of the mourning festival, all must have witnessed who have been in Hindoostaun for any period.
I must first endeavour to represent the principal causes for the observance of Mahurrum; and for the information of those who have witnessed its celebration, as well as for the benefit of others who have not had the same opportunity, describe the manner of celebrating the event, which occurred more than twelve hundred years ago.
Hasan and Hosein were the two sons of Fatima and Ali, from whom the whole Syaad race have generated; Hasan was poisoned by an emissary of the usurping Calipha's; and Hosein, the last sad victim of the family to the King Yuzeed's fury, suffered a cruel death, after the most severe trials, on the plains of Kraabaallah, on the tenth day of the Arabian month Mahurrum; the anniversary of which catastrophe is solemnized with the most devoted zeal.
This brief sketch constitutes the origin of the festival; but I deem it necessary to detail at some length the history of that period, which may the better explain the motives assigned by the Mussulmauns, for the deep grief exhibited every year, as the anniversary of Mahurrum returns to these faithful followers of their martyred leaders, Hasan and Hosein, who, with their devoted families, suffered innocently by the hands of the guilty.
Yuzeed, the King of Shawm, it appears, was the person in power, amongst the followers of Mahumud, at that early period of Mussulmaun history. Of the Soonie sect, his hatred to the descendants of Mahumud was of the most inveterate kind; jealousy, it is supposed, aided by a very wicked heart, led him to desire the extirpation of the whole race, particularly as he knew that, generally, the Mussulmaun people secretly desired the immediate descendants of their Prophet to be their rulers. They were, however, intimidated by Yuzeed's authority; whilst he, ever fearing the possibility of the Syaads' restoration to their rights, resolved, if possible, on sacrificing the whole family, to secure himself in his illegal power.
Ali had been treacherously murdered through the contrivances of the usurping Calipha; after his death, the whole family removed from Shawm, the capital, to Medina, where they lived some years in tranquillity, making many converts to their faith, and exercising themselves in the service of God and virtuous living. Unostentatious in their habits and manners, they enjoyed the affection of their neighbours, their own good name increasing daily, to the utter dismay of their subtle enemy.
In the course of time, the devout people of Shawm, being heartily tired of Yuzeed's tyrannical rule, and fearing the true