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The ritual for prayer is as rigid as that for ablution. It is not optional but imperative.
At almost every quarter of a mile are built the mosques -solid, substantial buildings. The minarets are the most beautiful spires that pierce the Levantine skies-symmetrical, lofty and majestic. They contain niether pealing chimes nor tolling bell, but five times daily from the top of these is heard the muezzin's ezan or call to prayer, in deep, longdrawn tones.
Allah Ekber! God is Almighty!
Ashadu inna la-ilaha il allah! I testify that there is no God but God!
Ashadu inna Mohammed dur resool ullah, sally-ullahu alayha va Alehe!
I testify that Mohammed is the apostle of God; the blessing of God be upon him and his family!
Hyya alesselah! Hasten to prayers!
That voice is mingled with sacred cries from all the minarets of the different parts of the city-all Arabicstrange, yet heroic and impressive in tone. The voice resounds in the lightest pitch when he sings with three-fold iteration, Laha il allah!' or “there is no God but God!" At this call all the faithful Moslem leave their engagements at once and hasten to worship, no matter how inclement the weather or how pressing their business engagements.
Their regular attendance and punctuality is bewildering to the Christian world. Would that our good Christians, who are required by the Divine Master to sanctify but one day in the week to devotions, would take lessons from the Mohammedan, and not rob the Lord of His own day by using it to their own pleasure and comfort. If any Mohammedan is late, he may at any time join with the congregation in the service, but the blessing to be obtained is far inferior to what would have resulted had he been on time. Tradition says a follower excused himself to the prophet on the ground that he was saving his friend from drowning, and hoped that he should be blessed for the kindly act as well as those who were early at prayer. The stern prophet would not accept the apology. “Though you had camels enough to fill the road from Mecca to Medina, all loaded with jewels, and should give the cargo to the poor, the blessing following would not equal those of promptness at prayer.
commit the whole Koran to memory and repeat it twice every night, tlie blessings received would not equal those of beginning nemaz (prayer) with the Iman (priest). Should you kill all the enemies of Islam, the great rewards would not compare with those of him who is prompt at the beginning of prayer. If by a word the heavens and earth could become paper, the sea be turned into ink, and all angels stand as scribes, yet they would be unable to write all the blessings you may enjoy for beginning prayers with the “Iman.' The Mohammedans are deeply conscious to all these warnings of their prophet. Though not “in spirit and in truth,” yet they worship according to their forms most faithfully.
The interior of the mosque is considered most holy, consequently all the people take off their shoes as they step within the shrine, and go through a series of pious movements. The religion of “the Prophet” forbids pictures, images or any other representation of the human form in their houses of worship. On the walls, however, are many inscriptions from the Koran. Censors burning olive oil are suspended by lines from the dome.
The floor is beautified with the richest rugs in the Orient, upon which Moslems prostrate themselves in their devotions; each follows the movement of the Emir (priest), raising the hands and bowing simultaneously with almost military precision.
While at prayer certain acts must be refrained from, as any of them would destroy the efficacy of the devotions. The full list is long, but in part it is: Looking around; striking a fly to kill; raising a foot from the floor; scratching more than three times in one place on the body; laughing loud enough to be heard.
The Iman who performs the devotional ceremonies preaches no sermon. Every day at noon he reads two chapters from the Koran, and then descends to mingle with the many worshipers, placing himself on a level with the common people.
On Friday, the holy day of the Mohammedans, the ceremonies are couducted with unusual pomp and ceremony, the
Koran being read before prayers are said, and on feast days both before and after prayers.
The language of the Mohammedans in Asia Minor is Turkish, but the Koran is written in classical Arabic, an unintelligible tongue to the masses and only understood by a few of the best educated. Though the Koran is not intelligible to the masses, their tradition teaches that the mere hearing of the sacred book read has a miraculous effect in benefiting the soul and body, and so they are made content with the mere sound of meaningless words.
The reward of the faithful after death, as promised by the Koran, is all that could be desired. The prayers that he has said will light up his grave as a lamp. No sin will remain to be imputed to him at the resurrection. Angel wings will bear him aloft. Even should some sin remain through careless praying, he still has a chance of escape,
, though he does not believe in purgatory. If he has children, their innocence will admit them, and their grief at leaving their father behind will take him through the gates, Peter or no Peter!
Once in Paradise the Mohammedan has but to express his wants and they are immediately granted. His food is served on a golden plate, and the bones of the bird that has been devoured will again assume full plumage and fly away to sing as of yore in the leafy bowers. Wine, which is denied to the faithful here, will be abundant there, but will not intoxicate. The humblest in rank will have seventy-two virgins of immortal youth and angelic beauty to attend him. In eternity, momentary pleasures of time are to be extended to a thousand year. In brief, an ideal temporal paradise, based on the sensual pleasures of earth and taste, is to be magnified a thousand-fold beyond the utmost limit of even an Oriental imagination to depict. Such is their elysium.