chor. but a wise policy supplied the obligation of justice;

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

and after some acts of intolerant zeal, the Mahometan conquerors of Hindostan have spared the pagods of that devout and populous country. The disciples of Abraham, of Moses, and of Jesus, were solemnly invited to accept the more perfect revelation of Mahomet; but if they preferred the payment of a moderate tribute, they were entitled to the freedom of conscience

#5, and religious worship." In a field of battle, the forfeit

honism lives of the prisoners were redeemed by the profession

of Islam; the females were bound to embrace the religion of their masters, and a race of sincere proselytes was gradually multiplied by the education of the infant captives. But the millions of African and Asiatic converts, who swelled the native band of the faithful Arabs, must have been allured, rather than constrained, to declare their belief in one God and the apostle of God. By the repetition of a sentence and the loss of a foreskin, the subject or the slave, the captive or the criminal, arose in a moment the free and equal companion of the victorious Moslems. Every sin was expiated, every engagement was dissolved: the vow of celibacy was superseded by the indulgence of nature; the active spirits who slept in the cloister were awakened by the trumpet of the Saracens; and in the convulsion of the world, every member of a new society ascended to the natural level of his capacity and courage. The minds of the multitude were tempted by the invisible as well as temporal blessings of the Arabian prophet; and charity will hope that many of his proselytes entertained a serious conviction of the truth and sanctity of his revelation. In the eyes of an inquisitive polytheist, cio.

amplectantur, nec requies is concedenda est, nec pretium acceptandum pro obtinendà conscientia libertate (Reland, Dissertat. x. de Jure Militari Mohammedan. tom. iii. p. 14): A rigid theory ! • The distinction between a proscribed and a tolerated sect, between the Harbii and the People of the Book, the believers in some divine revelation, is correctly defined in the conversation of the caliph Al Mamun with the idolaters or Sabaeans of Charra. Hottinger, Hist. Orient. p. 107. 108.

it must appear worthy of the human and the divine nature. More pure than the system of Zoroaster, more liberal than the law of Moses, the religion of Mahomet might seem less inconsistent with reason, than the creed of mystery and superstition, which, in the seventh century, disgraced the simplicity of the Gospel.

In the extensive provinces of Persia and Africa, so the national religion has been eradicated by the Ma-o.

hometan faith. The ambiguous theology of the Magi stood alone among the sects of the East: but the profane writings of Zoroaster” might, under the reverend name of Abraham, be dexterously connected with the chain of divine revelation. Their evil principle, the damon Ahriman, might be represented as the rival, or as the creature, of the God of light. The temples of Persia were devoid of images; but the worship of the sun and of fire might be stigmatized as a gross and criminal idolatry." The milder sentiment was consecrated by the practice of Mahomet" and the prudence of the caliphs; the Magians or Ghebers were ranked with the Jews and Christians among the people of the written law;" and as late as the third

P The Zend or Pazend, the bible of the Ghebers, is reckoned by themselves, or at least by the Mahometans, among the ten books which Abraham received from heaven; and their religion is honourably styled the religion of Abraham (D'Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 701; Hyde, de Religione veterum Persarum, c. iii. p. 27, 28, &c.) I much fear that we do not possess any pure and free description of the system of Zoroaster. Dr. Prideaux (Connection, vol. i. p. 300, octavo) adopts the opinion, that he had been the slave and scholar of some Jewish prophet in the captivity of Babylon. Perhaps the Persians, who have been the masters of the Jews, would assert the honour, a poor honour, of being their masters. * The Arabian Nights, a faithful and amusing picture of the oriental world, represent in the most odious colours the Magians, or worshippers of fire, to whom they attribute the annual sacrifice of a Musulman. The religion of Zoroaster has not the least affinity with that of the Hindoos, yet they are often confounded by the Mahometans; and the sword of Timour was sharpened by this mistake (Hist, de Timour Bec, par Cherefeddin Ali Yezdi, l. v). * Vie de Mahomet, par Gagnier, tom. iii. p. 114, 115. * Hae tres sectae, Judaei, Christiani, et qui inter Persas Magorum institutis addicti sunt, car iáozny, populi libridicuntur (Reland, Dissertat. tom. iii. p. 15).

[ocr errors]

chor. century of the Hegira, the city of Herat will afford

a lively contrast of private zeal and public toleration." Under the payment of an annual tribute, the Mahometan law secured to the Ghebers of Herat their civil and religious liberties: but the recent and humble mosch was overshadowed by the antique splendour of the adjoining temple of fire. A fanatic Imam deplored, in his sermons, the scandalous neighbourhood, and accused the weakness or indifference of the faithful. Excited by his voice, the people assembled in tumult; the two houses of prayer were consumed by the flames, but the vacant ground was immediately occupied by the foundations of a new mosch. The injured Magi appealed to the sovereign of Chorasan; he promised justice and relief: when, behold! four thousand citizens of Herat, of a grave character and mature age, unanimously swore that the idolatrous fane had never existed; the inquisition was silenced, and their conscience was satisfied (says the historian Mirchond)" with this holy and meritorious perjury." But the greatest part of the temples of Persia were

The caliph Al Mamun confirms this honourable distinction in favour of the three
sects, with the vague and equivocal religion of the Sabaeans, under which the
ancient polytheists of Charras were allowed to shelter their idolatrous worship
(Hottinger, Hist. Orient, p. 167, 168).
* This singular story is related by D'Herbelot (Bibliot. Orient. p. 448, 449)
on the faith of Khondemir, and by Mirchond himself (Hist, priorum Regum Per-
sarum, &c. p. 9, 10. not. p. 88, 89).
" Mirchond (Mohammed Emir Koondah Shah), a native of Herat, composed
in the Persian language a general history of the East, from the creation to the
year of the Hegira 875 (A. D. 1471). In the year 904 (A. D. 1498) the histo-
rian obtained the command of a princely library, and his applauded work, in seven
or twelve parts, was abbreviated in three volumes by his son Khondemir, A. H.
927, A D. 1520. The two writers most accurately distinguished by Petit de la
Croix (Hist. de Genghizcan, p. 537, 538. 544, 545) are loosely confounded by
D'Herbelot (p. 358.410. 994, 995): but his numerous extracts, under the im-
proper name of Khondemir, belong to the father rather than the son. The histo-
rian of Genghizcan refers to a MS. of Mirchond, which he received from the
hands of his friend D'Herbelot himself. A curious fragment (the Taherian and
Soffarian Dynasties) has been lately published in Persic and Latin (Viennae, 1782,
in 4to. cum notis Bernard de Jenisch); and the editor allows us to hope for a
continuation of Mirchond.
" Quo testimonio boni se quidpiam praestitisse opinabantur. Yet Mirchond

ruined by the insensible and general desertion of their cor.

votaries. It was insensible, since it is not accompanied with any memorial of time or place, of persecution or resistance. It was general, since the whole realm, from Shiraz to Samarcand, imbibed the faith of the Koran; and the preservation of the native tongue reveals the descent of the Mahometans of Persia." In the mountains and deserts, an obstinate race of unbelievers adhered to the superstition of their fathers; and a faint tradition of the Magian theology is kept alive in the province of Kirman, along the banks of the Indus, among the exiles of Surat, and in the colony which, in the last century, was planted by Shaw Abbas at the gates of Ispahan. The chief

pontiff has retired to Mount Elbourz, eighteen leagues.

from the city of Yezd: the perpetual fire (if it continue to burn) is inaccessible to the profane; but his residence is the school, the oracle, and the pilgrimage, of the Ghebers, whose hard and uniform features attest the unmingled purity of their blood. Under the jurisdiction of their elders, eighty thousand families maintain an innocent and industrious life; their subsistence is derived from some curious manufactures and mechanic trades; and they cultivate the earth with the fervour of a religious duty. Their ignorance withstood the despotism of Shaw Abbas, who demanded with threats and tortures the prophetic books of Zoroaster; and this obscure remnant of the Magians is spared by the moderation or contempt of their present sovereigns."

must have condemned their zeal, since he approved the legal toleration of the Magi, cui (the fire temple) peracto singulis annis censil, uti sacra Mohammedis lege cautum, ab omnibus molestiis ac oneribus libero esse licuit. * The last Magian of name and power appears to be Mardavige the Dilemite, who, in the beginning of the 10th century, reigned in the northern provinces of Persia, near the Caspian Sea (D'Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 355). But his soldiers and successors, the Bowides, either professed or embraced the Mahometan faith; and under their dynasty (A. D. 933–1020) I should place the fall of the religion of Zoroaster. * The present state of the Ghebers in Persia is taken from Sir John Chardin,

CHAP. The northern coast of Africa is the only land in * which the light of the Gospel, after a long and perfect ** establishment, has been totally extinguished. The Christianity arts, which had been taught by Carthage and Rome, "** were involved in a cloud of ignorance; the doctrine of Cyprian and Augustin was no longer studied. Five hundred episcopal churches were overturned by the hostile fury of the Donatists, the Vandals, and the Moors. The zeal and numbers of the clergy declined; and the people, without discipline, or knowledge, or hope, submissively sunk under the yoke of A.D.749. the Arabian prophet. Within fifty years after the expulsion of the Greeks, a lieutenant of Africa informed the caliph that the tribute of the infidels was abolished by their conversion,” and, though he sought to disguise his fraud and rebellion, his specious pretence was drawn from the rapid and extensive proA. D. 837. gress of the Mahometan faith. In the next age, an extraordinary mission of five bishops was detached from Alexandria to Cairoan. They were ordained by the Jacobite patriarch to cherish and revive the dying embers of Christianity: * but the interposition of a foreign prelate, a stranger to the Latins, an enemy to the Catholics, supposes the decay and dissolution of the African hierarchy. It was no longer the time when the successor of St. Cyprian, at the head of a numerous synod, could maintain an equal contest A.D. 1053 with the ambition of the Roman pontiff. In the -* eleventh century, the unfortunate priest who was seated on the ruins of Carthage implored the alms and the protection of the Vatican; and he bitterly

not indeed the most learned, but the most judicious and inquisitive, of our modern travellers (Voyages en Perse, tom. ii. p. 109. 179–187, in 4to). His brethren, Pietro della Valle, Olearius, Thevenot, Tavernier, &c., whom I have fruitlessly searched, had neither eyes nor attention for this interesting people. y The letter of Abdoulrahman, governor or tyrant of Africa, to the caliph Aboul Abbas, the first of the Abassides, is dated A. H. 132 (Cardonne, Hist. de l'Afrique et de l'Espagne, tom. i. p. 168). * Bibliothèque Orientale, p. 66. Renaudot, Hist. Patriarch. Alex. p. 287,288.

« ForrigeFortsett »