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Title: Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah
Author: Sir Richard Francis Burton
Release Date: November, 2003 [EBook #4658] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on June 12, 2002]
*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK, PERSONAL NARRATIVE OF A PILGRIMAGE TO AL-MADINAH & MECCAH ***
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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
Dark and the Desert and Destriers me ken,
And the Glaive and the Joust, and Paper and Pen.
[p.1] A PILGRIMAGE
AL-MADINAH AND MECCAH.
THE PEOPLE OF AL-MADINAH.
AL-MADINAH contains but few families descended from the Prophets 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 Muezzins.[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-Shaab, 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 Muawiyah: the latter opinion is improbable, as the Caliph in question was a mortal foe to Alis 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 Shiah 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-JanazahRoad of Biersto 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 Prophets tomb. They
[p.4]subsist principally upon their Amlak, property in land, for which they have title-deeds extending back to Mohammeds 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 Saad, 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 Hamzahs tomb. Some declare that there are a few of the