Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah vol. II

Part II - AL-Madinah

Chapter XXII

A Visit to the Saints’ Cemetery

Richard F. Burton

A SPLENDID COMET, blazing in the western sky, had aroused the apprehensions of the Madani. They all fell to predicting the usual disasters—war, famine, and pestilence,—it being still an article of Moslem belief that the Dread Star foreshows all manner of calamities. Men discussed the probability of Abd al-Majid’s immediate decease; for here as in Rome,

“When beggars die, there are no comets seen:
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes:”

and in every strange atmospheric appearance about the time of the Hajj, the Hijazis are accustomed to read tidings of the dreaded Rih al-Asfar.1

Whether the event is attributable to the Zu Zuwabahthe—“Lord of the Forelock,”— or whether it was a case of post hoc, ergo, propter hoc, I would not commit myself by deciding; but, influenced by some cause or other, the Hawazim and the Hawamid, sub-families of the Benu-Harb, began to fight about this time with prodigious fury. These tribes are generally at feud, and the least provocation fans their smouldering wrath into a flame. The Hawamid number, it is said, between three and four thousand fighting men, and the Hawazim not more than seven hundred: the latter however, are considered a race of desperadoes who pride themselves upon never retreating, and under their fiery Shaykhs, Abbas and Abu Ali, they are a thorn in the sides of their disproportionate foe. On the present occasion a Hamidah2 happened to strike the camel of a Hazimi which had trespassed; upon which the Hazimi smote the Hamidah, and called him a rough name. The Hamidah instantly shot the Hazimi, the tribes were called out, and they fought with asperity for some days. During the whole of the afternoon of Tuesday, the 30th of August, the sound of firing amongst the mountains was distinctly heard in the city. Through the streets parties of Badawin, sword and matchlock in hand, or merely carrying quarterstaves on their shoulders, might be seen hurrying along, frantic at the chance of missing the fray. The townspeople cursed them privily, expressing a hope that the whole race of vermin might consume itself. And the pilgrims were in no small trepidation, fearing the desertion of their camel-men, and knowing what a blaze is kindled in this inflammable land by an ounce of gunpowder. I afterwards heard that the Badawin fought till night, and separated after losing on both sides ten men.

This quarrel put an end to any lingering possibility of my prosecuting my journey to Maskat,3 as originally intended. I had on the way from Yambu to Al-Madinah privily made a friendship with one Mujrim of the Benu-Harb. The Sinful, as his name, ancient and classical amongst the Arabs, means, understood that I had some motive of secret interest to undertake the perilous journey. He could not promise at first to guide me, as his beat lay between Yambu, Al-Madinah, Meccah, and Jeddah. But he offered to make all inquiries about the route, and to bring me the result at noonday, a time when the household was asleep. He had almost consented at last to travel with me about the end of August, in which case I should have slipped out of Hamid’s house and started like a Badawi towards the Indian Ocean. But when the war commenced, Mujrim, who doubtless wished to stand by his brethren the Hawazim, began to show signs of recusancy in putting off the day of departure to the end of September. At last, when pressed, he frankly told me that no traveller—nay, not a Badawi—could leave the city in that direction, even as far as historic Khaybar,4 which information I afterwards ascertained to be correct. It was impossible to start alone, and when in despair I had recourse to Shaykh Hamid, he seemed to think me mad for wishing to wend Northwards when all the world was hurrying towards the South. My disappointment was bitter at first, but consolation soon suggested itself. Under the most favourable circumstances, a Badawi-trip from Al-Madinah to Maskat, fifteen or sixteen hundred miles, would require at least ten months; whereas, under pain of losing my commission,5 I was ordered to be at Bombay before the end of March. Moreover, entering Arabia by Al-Hijaz, as has before been said, I was obliged to leave behind all my instruments except a watch and a pocket-compass, so the benefit rendered to geography by my trip would have been scanty. Still remained to me the comfort of reflecting that possibly at Meccah some opportunity of crossing the Peninsula might present itself. At any rate I had the certainty of seeing the strange wild country of the Hijaz, and of being present at the ceremonies of the Holy City. I must request the reader to bear with a Visitation once more: we shall conclude it with a ride to Al-Bakia.6 This venerable spot is frequented by the pious every day after the prayer at the Prophet’s Tomb, and especially on Fridays.

Our party started one morning,—on donkeys, as usual, for my foot was not yet strong,—along the Darb al-Janazah round the Southern wall of the town. The locomotion was decidedly slow, principally in consequence of the tent-ropes which the Hajis had pinned down literally all over the plain, and falls were by no means unfrequent. At last we arrived at the end of the Darb, where I committed myself by mistaking the decaying place of those miserable schismatics the Nakhawilah7 for Al-Bakia, the glorious cemetery of the Saints. Hamid corrected my blunder with tartness, to which I replied as tartly, that in our country—Afghanistan—we burned the body of every heretic upon whom we could lay our hands. This truly Islamitic custom was heard with general applause, and as the little dispute ended, we stood at the open gate of Al-Bakia. Then having dismounted I sat down on a low Dakkah or stone bench within the walls, to obtain a general view and to prepare for the most fatiguing of the Visitations.

There is a tradition that seventy thousand, or according to others a hundred thousand saints, all with faces like full moons, shall cleave on the last day the yawning bosom of Al-Bakia.8 About ten thousand of the Ashab (Companions of the Prophet) and innumerable Sadat are here buried: their graves are forgotten, because, in the olden time, tombstones were not placed over the last resting-places of mankind. The first of flesh who shall arise is Mohammed, the second Abu Bakr, the third Omar, then the people of Al-Bakia (amongst whom is Osman, the fourth Caliph), and then the incolæ of the Jannat al-Maala, the Meccan cemetery. The Hadis, “whoever dies at the two Harims shall rise with the Sure on the Day of judgment,” has made these spots priceless in value. And even upon earth they might be made a mine of wealth. Like the catacombs at Rome, Al-Bakia is literally full of the odour of sanctity, and a single item of the great aggregate here would render any other Moslem town famous. It is a pity that this people refuses to exhume its relics.

The first person buried in Al-Bakia was Osman bin Mazun, the first of the Muhajirs, who died at Al-Madinah. In the month of Shaaban, A.H. 3, the Prophet kissed the forehead of the corpse and ordered it to be interred within sight of his abode.9 In those days the field was covered with the tree Gharkad; the vegetation was cut down, the ground was levelled, and Osman was placed in the centre of the new cemetery. With his own hands Mohammed planted two large upright stones at the head and the feet of his faithful follower10; and in process of time a dome covered the spot. Ibrahim, the Prophet’s infant second son, was laid by Osman’s side, after which Al-Bakia became a celebrated cemetery.

The Burial-place of the Saints is an irregular oblong surrounded by walls which are connected with the suburb at their south-west angle. The Darb al-Janazah separates it from the enceinte of the town, and the eastern Desert Road beginning from the Bab al-Jumah bounds it on the North. Around it palm plantations seem to flourish. It is small, considering the extensive use made of it: all that die at Al-Madinah, strangers as well as natives, except only heretics and schismatics, expect to be interred in it. It must be choked with corpses, which it could never contain did not the Moslem style of burial greatly favour rapid decomposition; and it has all the inconveniences of intramural sepulture. The gate is small and ignoble; a mere doorway in the wall. Inside there are no flower-plots, no tall trees, in fact none of the refinements which lightens the gloom of a Christian burial-place: the buildings are simple, they might even be called mean. Almost all are the common Arab Mosque, cleanly whitewashed, and looking quite new. The ancient monuments were levelled to the ground by Saad the Wahhabi and his puritan followers, who waged pitiless warfare against what must have appeared to them magnificent mausolea, deeming as they did a loose heap of stones sufficient for a grave. In Burckhardt’s time the whole place was a confused accumulation of heaps of earth, wide pits, and rubbish, without a singular regular tomb-stone. The present erections owe their existence, I was told, to the liberality of the Sultans Abd al-Hamid and Mahmud.

A poor pilgrim has lately started on his last journey, and his corpse, unattended by friends or mourners, is carried upon the shoulders of hired buriers into the cemetery. Suddenly they stay their rapid steps, and throw the body upon the ground. There is a life-like pliability about it as it falls, and the tight cerements so define the outlines that the action makes me shudder. It looks almost as if the dead were conscious of what is about to occur. They have forgotten their tools; one man starts to fetch them, and three sit down to smoke. After a time a shallow grave is hastily scooped out.11 The corpse is packed in it with such unseemly haste that earth touches it in all directions,—cruel carelessness among Moslems, who believe this to torture the sentient frame.12 One comfort suggests itself. The poor man being a pilgrim has died Shahid—in martyrdom. Ere long his spirit shall leave Al-Bakia,

And he on honey-dew shall feed,
And drink the milk of Paradise.

I entered the holy cemetery right foot forwards, as if it were a Mosque, and barefooted, to avoid suspicion of being a heretic. For though the citizens wear their shoes in the Bakia, they are much offended at seeing the Persians follow their example. We began by the general benediction13: “Peace be upon Ye, O People of Al-Bakia! Peace be upon Ye, O Admitted to the Presence of the Most High! Receive Ye what Ye have been promised! Peace be upon Ye, Martyrs of Al-Bakia, One and All! We verily, if Allah please, are about to join You! O Allah, pardon us and Them, and the Mercy of God, and His Blessings!” After which we recited the Chapter Al-Ikhlas and the Testification, then raised our hands, mumbled the Fatihah, passed our palms down our faces, and went on.

Walking down a rough narrow path, which leads from the western to the eastern extremity of Al-Bakia, we entered the humble mausoleum of the Caliph Osman—Osman “Al-Mazlum”, or the “ill-treated”, he is called by some Moslems. When he was slain,14 his friends wished to bury him by the Prophet in the Hujrah, and Ayishah made no objection to the measure. But the people of Egypt became violent; swore that the corpse should neither be buried nor be prayed over, and only permitted it to be removed upon the threat of Habibah (one of the “Mothers of the Moslems”, and daughter of Abu Sufiyan) to expose her countenance. During the night that followed his death, Osman was carried out by several of his friends to Al-Bakia, from which, however, they were driven away, and obliged to deposit their burden in a garden, eastward of and outside the saints’ cemetery. It was called Hisn Kaukab, and was looked upon as an inauspicious place of sepulture, till Marwan included it in Al-Bakia. We stood before Osman’s monument, repeating, “Peace be upon Thee, O our Lord Osman, Son of Affan!15 Peace be upon Thee, O Caliph of Allah’s Apostle! Peace be upon Thee, O Writer of Allah’s Book! Peace be upon Thee, in whose Presence the Angels are ashamed!16 Peace be upon Thee, O Collector of the Koran! Peace be upon Thee, O Son-in-Law of the Prophet! Peace be upon Thee, O Lord of the Two Lights (the two daughters of Mohammed)!17 Peace be upon Thee, who fought the Battle of the Faith! Allah be satisfied with Thee, and cause Thee to be satisfied, and render Heaven thy Habitation! Peace be upon Thee, and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessing, and Praise be to Allah, Lord of the (three) Worlds!” This supplication concluded in the usual manner. After which we gave alms, and settled with ten piastres the demands of the Khadim18 who takes charge of the tomb: this double-disbursing process had to be repeated at each station.

Then moving a few paces to the North, we faced Eastwards, and performed the Visitation of Abu Said al-Khazari, a Sahib or Companion of the Prophet, whose sepulchre lies outside Al-Bakia. The third place visited was a dome containing the tomb of our lady Halimah, the Badawi wet-nurse who took charge of Mohammed19: she is addressed thus; “Peace be upon Thee, O Halimah the Auspicious!20 Peace be upon Thee, who performed thy Trust in suckling the Best of Mankind! Peace be upon Thee, O Wet-nurse of Al-Mustafa! Peace be upon Thee, O Wet-nurse of Al-Mujtaba!21 May Allah be satisfied with Thee, and cause Thee to be satisfied, and render Heaven thy House and Habitation! and verily we have come visiting Thee, and by means of Thee drawing near to Allah’s Prophet, and through Him to God, the Lord of the Heavens and the Earths.”22

After which, fronting the North, we stood before a low enclosure, containing ovals of loose stones, disposed side by side. These are the Martyrs of Al-Bakia, who received the crown of glory at the hands of Al-Muslim,23 the general of the arch-heretic Yazid24 The prayer here recited differs so little from that addressed to the martyrs of Ohod, that I will not transcribe it. The fifth station is near the centre of the cemetery at the tomb of Ibrahim, who died, to the eternal regret of Al-Islam, some say six months old, others in his second year. He was the son of Mariyah, the Coptic girl, sent as a present to Mohammed by Jarih, the Mukaukas or governor of Alexandria. The Prophet with his own hand piled earth upon the grave, and sprinkled it with water,—a ceremony then first performed,—disposed small stones upon it, and pronounced the final salutation. For which reason many holy men were buried in this part of the cemetery, every one being ambitious to lie in ground which has been honored by the Apostle’s hands. Then we visited Al-Nafi Maula, son of Omar, generally called Imam Nafi al-Kari, or the Koran chaunter; and near him the great doctor Imam Malik ibn Anas, a native of Al-Madinah, and one of the most dutiful of her sons. The eighth station is at the tomb of Ukayl bin Abi Talib, brother of Ali.25 Then we visited the spot where lie interred all the Prophet’s wives, Khadijah, who lies at Meccah, alone excepted. Mohammed married fifteen wives of whom nine survived him. After the Mothers of the Moslems, we prayed at the tombs of Mohammed’s daughters, said to be ten in number.

In compliment probably to the Hajj, the beggars mustered strong that morning at Al-Bakia. Along the walls and at the entrance of each building squatted ancient dames, all engaged in anxious contemplation of every approaching face, and in pointing to dirty cotton napkins spread upon the ground before them, and studded with a few coins, gold, silver, or copper, according to the expectations of the proprietress. They raised their voices to demand largesse: some promised to recite Fatihahs, and the most audacious seized visitors by the skirts of their garments. Fakihs, ready to write “Y.S.,” or anything else demanded of them, covered the little heaps and eminences of the cemetery, all begging lustily, and looking as though they would murder you, when told how beneficent is Allah—polite form of declining to be charitable. At the doors of the tombs old housewives, and some young ones also, struggled with you for your slippers as you doffed them, and not unfrequently the charge of the pair was divided between two. Inside, when the boys were not loud enough or importunate enough for presents, they were urged on by the adults and seniors, the relatives of the Khadims and hangers-on. Unfortunately for me, Shaykh Hamid was renowned for taking charge of wealthy pilgrims: the result was, that my purse was lightened of three dollars. I must add that although at least fifty female voices loudly promised that morning, for the sum of ten parahs each, to supplicate Allah in behalf of my lame foot, no perceptible good came of their efforts.

Before leaving Al-Bakia, we went to the eleventh station,26 the Kubbat al-Abbasiyah, or Dome of Abbas. Originally built by the Abbaside Caliphs in A.H. 519, it is a larger and a handsomer building than its fellows, and it is situated on the right-hand side of the gate as you enter. The crowd of beggars at the door testified to its importance: they were attracted by the Persians who assemble here in force to weep and to pray. Crossing the threshold with some difficulty, I walked round a mass of tombs which occupies the centre of the building, leaving but a narrow passage between it and the walls. It is railed round, and covered over with several Kiswahs of green cloth worked with white letters: it looked like a confused heap, but it might have appeared irregular to me by the reason of the mob around. The Eastern portion contains the body of Al-Hasan, the son of Ali and grandson of the Prophet27; the Imam Zayn al-Abidin, son of Al-Hosayn, and great-grandson to the Prophet; the Imam Mohammed al-Bakir (fifth Imam), son to Zayn al-Abidin; and his son the Imam aafar al-Sadikall four descendants of the Prophet, and buried in the same grave with Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, uncle to Mohammed. It is almost needless to say that these names are subjects of great controversy. Al-Musudi mentions that here was found an inscribed stone declaring it to be the tomb of the Lady Fatimah, of Hasan her brother, of Ali bin Hosayn, of Mohammed bin Ali, and of Jaafar bin Mohammed. Ibn Jubayr, describing Al-Bakia, mentions only two in this tomb, Abbas and Hasan; the head of the latter, he says, in the direction of the former’s feet. Other authors relate that in it, about the ninth century of the Hijrah, was found a wooden box covered with fresh-looking red felt cloth, with bright brass nails, and they believe it to have contained the corpse of Ali, placed here by his own son Hasan.

Standing opposite this mysterious tomb, we repeated, with difficulty by reason of the Persians weeping, the following supplication: “Peace be upon Ye, O Family of the Prophet! O Lord Abbas, the free from Impurity and Uncleanness, and Father’s Brother to the Best of Men! And Thou too O Lord Hasan, Grandson of the Prophet! And thou also O Lord Zayn al-Abidin28! Peace be upon Ye, One and All, for verily God hath been pleased to deliver You from all Guile, and to purify You with all Purity. The Mercy of Allah and His Blessings be upon Ye, and verily He is the Praised, the Mighty!” After which, freeing ourselves from the hands of greedy boys, we turned round and faced the southern wall, close to which is a tomb attributed to the Lady Fatimah.29 I will not repeat the prayer, it being the same as that recited in the Harim.

Issuing from the hot and crowded dome, we recovered our slippers after much trouble, and found that our garments had suffered from the frantic gesticulations of the Persians. We then walked to the gate of Al-Bakia, stood facing the cemetery upon an elevated piece of ground, and delivered the general benediction.

“O Allah! O Allah! O Allah! O full of Mercy! O abounding in Beneficence! Lord of Length (of days), and Prosperity, and Goodness! O Thou, who when asked, grantest, and when prayed for aid, aidest! Have Mercy upon the Companions of thy Prophet, of the Muhajirin, and the Ansar! Have Mercy upon them, One and All! Have Mercy upon Adullah bin Hantal (and so on, specifying their names), and make Paradise their Resting-place, their Habitation, their Dwelling, and their Abode! O Allah! accept our Ziyarat, and supply our Wants, and lighten our Griefs, and restore us to our Homes, and comfort our Fears, and disappoint not our Hopes, and pardon us, for on no other do we rely; and let us depart in Thy Faith, and after the Practice of Thy Prophet, and be Thou satisfied with us! O Allah! forgive our past Offences, and leave us not to our (evil) Natures during the Glance of an Eye, or a lesser Time; and pardon us, and pity us, and let us return to our Houses and Homes safe, (i.e., spiritually and physically) fortunate, abstaining from what is unlawful, re-established after our Distresses, and belonging to the Good, thy Servants upon whom is no Fear, nor do they know Distress. Repentance, O Lord! Repentance, O Merciful! Repentance, O Pitiful! Repentance before Death, and Pardon after Death! I beg pardon of Allah! Thanks be to Allah! Praise be to Allah! Amen, O Lord of the (three) Worlds!”

After which, issuing from Al-Bakia,30 we advanced northwards, leaving the city gate on the left hand, till we came to a small Kubbah (dome) close to the road. It is visited as containing the tomb of the Prophet’s paternal aunts, especially of Safiyah, daughter of Abd al-Muttalib, sister of Hamzah, and one of the many heroines of early Al-Islam. Hurrying over our devotions here,—for we were tired indeed,—we applied to a Sakka for water, and entered a little coffee-house near the gate of the town: after which we rode home.

I have now described, at a wearying length I fear, the spots visited by every Zair at Al-Madinah. The guide-books mention altogether between fifty and fifty-five Mosques and other holy places, most of which are now unknown even by name to the citizens. The most celebrated of these are the few following, which I describe from hearsay. About three miles to the North-west of the town, close to the Wady al-Akik, lies the Mosque called Al-Kiblatayn—“The Two Directions of Prayer.” Some give this title to the Masjid al-Takwa at Kuba.31 Others assert that the Prophet, after visiting and eating at the house of an old woman named Umm Mabshar, went to pray the mid-day prayer in the Mosque of the Benu Salmah. He had performed the prostration with his face towards Jerusalem, when suddenly warned by revelation he turned Southwards and concluded his orisons in that direction.32 I am told it is a mean dome without inner walls, outer enclosures, or minaret.

The Masjid Benu Zafar (some write the word Tifr) is also called Masjid al-Baghlah—of the She-mule,—because, according to Al-Matari, on the ridge of stone to the south of this Mosque are the marks where the Prophet leaned his arm, and where the she-mule, Duldul, sent by the Mukaukas as a present with Mariyah the Coptic girl and Yafur the donkey, placed its hoofs. At the Mosque was shown a slab upon which the Prophet sat hearing recitations from the Koran; and historians declare that by following his example many women have been blessed with offspring.33 This Mosque is to the East of Al-Bakia.

The Masjid al-Jumah—of Friday, or Al-Anikah of the Sand-heaps,—is in the valley near Kuba, where Mohammed prayed and preached on the first Friday after his flight from Meccah.34

The Masjid al-Fazikh—of Date-liquor—is so called because when Abu Ayyub and others of the Ansar were sitting with cups in their hands, they heard that intoxicating draughts were for the future forbidden, upon which they poured the liquor upon the ground. Here the Prophet prayed six days whilst he was engaged in warring down the Benu Nazir Jews. The Mosque derives its other name, Al-Shams—of the Sun—because, being erected on rising ground East of and near Kuba, it receives the first rays of morning light.

To the Eastward of the Masjid al-Fazikh lies the Masjid al-Kurayzah, erected on a spot where the Prophet descended to attack the Jewish tribe of that name. Returning from the battle of the Moat, wayworn and tired with fighting, he here sat down to wash and comb his hair, when suddenly appeared to him the Archangel Gabriel in the figure of a horseman dressed in a corslet and covered with dust. “The Angels of Allah,” said the preternatural visitor, “are still in Arms, O Prophet, and it is Allah’s Will that Thy foot return to the Stirrup. I go before Thee to prepare a Victory over the Infidels, the Sons of Kurayzah.” The legend adds that the dust raised by the angelic host was seen in the streets of Al-Madinah, but that mortal eye fell not upon horseman’s form. The Prophet ordered his followers to sound the battle-call, gave his flag to Ali,—the Arab token of appointing a commander-in-chief,—and for twenty-five days invested the habitations of the enemy. This hapless tribe was exterminated, sentence of death being passed upon them by Saad ibn Maaz, an Ausi whom they constituted their judge because he belonged to an allied tribe. Six hundred men were beheaded in the Market-place of Al-Madinah, their property was plundered, and their wives and children were reduced to slavery.

“Tantane relligio potuit suadere malorum!”

The Masjid Mashrabat Umm Ibrahim, or Mosque of the garden of Ibrahim’s mother, is a place where Mariyah the Copt had a garden, and became the mother of Ibrahim, the Prophet’s second son.35 It is a small building in what is called the Awali, or highest part of the Al-Madinah plain, to the North of the Masjid Benu Kurayzah, and near the Eastern Harrah or ridge.36

Northwards of Al-Bakia is, or was, a small building called the Masjid al-Ijabah—of Granting,—from the following circumstance. One day the Prophet stopped to perform his devotions at this place, which then belonged to the Benu Muawiyah of the tribe of Aus. He made a long Dua or supplication, and then turning to his Companions, exclaimed, I have asked of Allah three favours, two hath he vouchsafed to me, but the third was refused! Those granted were that the Moslems might never be destroyed by famine or by deluge. The third was that they might not perish by internecine strife.

The Masjid al-Fath—of Victory,—vulgarly called the “Four Mosques”, is situated in the Wady Al-Sayh,37 which comes from the direction of Kuba, and about half a mile to the East of “Al-Kiblatayn.” The largest is called the Masjid al-Fath, or Al-Ahzab—of the Troops,—and is alluded to in the Koran. Here it is said the Prophet prayed for three days during the Battle of the Moat, also called the affair “Al-Ahzab,” the last fought with the Infidel Kuraysh under Abu Sufiyan. After three days of devotion, a cold and violent blast arose, with rain and sleet, and discomfited the foe. The Prophet’s prayer having here been granted, it is supposed by ardent Moslems that no petition put up at the Mosque Al-Ahzab is ever neglected by Allah. The form of supplication is differently quoted by different authors. When Al-Shafei was in trouble and fear of Harun al-Rashid, by the virtue of this formula he escaped all danger: I would willingly offer so valuable a prophylactory to my readers, only it is of an unmanageable length. The doctors of Al-Islam also greatly differ about the spot where the Prophet stood on this occasion; most of them support the claims of the Masjid al-Fath, the most elevated of the four, to that distinction. Below, and to the South of the highest ground, is the Masjid Salman al-Farsi, the Persian, from whose brain emanated the bright idea of the Moat. At the mature age of two hundred and fifty, some say three hundred and fifty, after spending his life in search of a religion, from a Magus (fire-worshipper)38 becoming successively a Jew and a Nazarene, he ended with being a Moslem, and a Companion of Mohammed. During his eventful career he had been ten times sold into slavery. Below Salman’s Mosque is the Masjid Ali, and the smallest building on the South of the hill is called Masjid Abu Bakr. All these places owe their existence to Al-Walid the Caliph: they were repaired at times by his successors.

The Masjid al-Rayah—of the Banner—was originally built by Al-Walid upon a place where the Prophet pitched his tent during the War of the Moat. Others call it Al-Zubab, after a hill upon which it stands. Al-Rayah is separated from the Masjid al-Fath by a rising ground called Jabal Sula or Jabal Sawab39: the former being on the Eastern, whilst the latter lies upon the Western declivity of the hill. The position of this place is greatly admired, as commanding the fairest view of the Harim.

About a mile and a half South-east of Al-Bakia is a dome called Kuwwat Islam, the Strength of Al-Islam. Here the Apostle planted a dry palm-stick, which grew up, blossomed, and bore fruit at once. Moreover, on one occasion when the Moslems were unable to perform the pilgrimage, Mohammed here produced the appearance of a Kaabah, an Arafat, and all the appurtenances of the Hajj. I must warn my readers not to condemn the founder of Al-Islam for these puerile inventions.

The Masjid Onayn lies South of Hamzah’s tomb. It is on a hill called Jabal al-Rumat, the Shooters’ Hill, and here during the battle of Ohod stood the archers of Al-Islam. According to some, the Prince of Martyrs here received his death-wound; others place that event at the Masjid al-Askar or the Masjid al-Wady.40

Besides these fourteen, I find the names, and nothing but the names, of forty Mosques. The reader loses little by my unwillingness to offer him a detailed list of such appellations as Masjid Benu Abd al-Ashhal, Masjid Benu Harisah, Masjid Benu Harim, Masjid al-Fash, Masjid al-Sukiya, Masjid Benu Bayazah, Masjid Benu Hatmah,

“Cum multis aliis quæ nunc perscribere longum est.”

1.    The cholera. See chapter xviii.    [back]

2.    The word Hawamid is plural of Hamidah, Hawazin of Hazimi.    [back]

3.    Anciently there was a Caravan from Maskat to Al-Madinah. My friends could not tell me when the line had been given up, but all were agreed that for years they had not seen an Oman caravan, the pilgrims preferring to enter Al-Hijaz via Jeddah.    [back]

4.    According to Abulfeda, Khaybar is six stations N.E. of Al-Madinah; it is four according to Al-Idrisi; but my informants assured me that camels go there easily, as the Tarikh al-Khamisy says, in three days. I should place it 80 miles N.N.E. of Al-Madinah. Al-Atwal locates it in 65° 20’ E. lon., and 25° 20’ N. lat; Al-Kanun in lon. 67° 30’, and lat. 24° 20’; Ibn Said in lon. 64° 56’, and lat. 27°; and D’Anville in lon. 57°, and lat. 25°. In Burckhardt’s map, and those copied from it, Khaybar is placed about 2° distant from Al-Madinah, which I believe to be too far.    [back]

5.    The Parliamentary limit of an officer’s leave from India is five years: if he overstay that period, he forfeits his commission. {to me the comfort of reflecting that possibly at Meccah some opportunity of crossing the Peninsula might present itself. At any rate I had the certainty of seeing the strange wild country of the Hijaz, and of being present at the ceremonies of the Holy City. I must request the reader to bear with a Visitation once more: we shall conclude it with a ride to Al-Bakia.    [back]

6.    The name means the place of many roots. It is also called Bakia Al-Gharkadthe place of many roots of the tree Rhamnus. Gharkad is translated in different ways: some term it the lote, others the tree of the Jews (Forskal, sub voce).    [back]

7.    See chapter xxi., ante.    [back]

8.    The same is said of the Makbarah Benu Salmah or Salim, a cemetery to the west of Al-Madinah, below rising ground called Jabal Sula. It has long ago been deserted. See chapter xiv.    [back]

9.    In those days Al-Madinah had no walls, and was clear of houses on the East of the Harim.    [back]

10.    These stones were removed by Al-Marwan, who determined that Osman’s grave should not be distinguished from his fellows. For this act, the lieutenant of Muawiyah was reproved and blamed by pious Moslems.    [back]

11.    It ought to be high enough for the tenant to sit upright when answering the interrogatory angels.    [back]

12.    Because of this superstition, in every part of Al-Islam, some contrivance is made to prevent the earth pressing upon the body.    [back]

13.    This blessing is in Mohammed’s words, as the beauty of the Arabic shows. Ayishah relates that in the month Safar, A.H. 11, one night the Prophet, who was beginning to suffer from the headache which caused his death, arose from his couch, and walked out into the darkness; whereupon she followed him in a fit of jealousy, thinking he might be about to visit some other wife. He went to Al-Bakia, delivered the above benediction (which others give somewhat differently), raised his hands three times, and turned to go home. Ayishah hurried back, but she could not conceal her agitation from her husband, who asked her what she had done. Upon her confessing her suspicions, he sternly informed her that he had gone forth, by order of the Archangel Gabriel, to bless and to intercede for the people of Al-Bakia. Some authors relate a more facetious termination of the colloquy.—M.C. de Perceval (Essai, &c., vol. iii. p. 314.)    [back]

14.     Limping Osman, as the Persians contemptuously call him, was slain by rebels, and therefore became a martyr according to the Sunnis. The Shiahs justify the murder, saying it was the act of an Ijma al-Muslimin, or the general consensus of Al-Islam, which in their opinion ratifies an act of lynch law.    [back]

15.    This specifying the father Affan, proves him to have been a Moslem. Abu Bakr’s father, Kahafah, and Omar’s Al-Khattab, are not mentioned by name in the Ceremonies of Visitation.    [back]

16.    The Christian reader must remember that the Moslems rank angelic nature, under certain conditions, below human nature.    [back]

17.    Osman married two daughters of the Prophet, a circumstance which the Sunnis quote as honourable to him: the Shiahs, on the contrary, declare that he killed them both by ill-treatment.    [back]

18.    These men are generally descendants of the Saint whose tomb they own: they receive pensions from the Mudir of the Mosque, and retain all fees presented to them by visitors. Some families are respectably supported in this way.    [back]

19.    This woman, according to some accounts, also saved Mohammed’s life, when an Arab Kahin or diviner, foreseeing that the child was destined to subvert the national faith, urged the bystanders to bury their swords in his bosom. The Sharifs of Meccah still entrust their children to the Badawin, that they may be hardened by the discipline of the Desert. And the late Pasha of Egypt gave one of his sons in charge of the Anizah tribe, near Akabah. Burckhardt (Travels in Arabia, vol. i. p. 427) makes some sensible remarks about this custom, which cannot be too much praised.    [back]

20.    Al-Sadiyah, a double entendre; it means auspicious, and also alludes to Halimah’s tribe, the Benu Saad.    [back]

21.    Both these words are titles of the Prophet. Al-Mustafa means the Chosen; Al-Mujtaba, the Accepted.    [back]

22.    There being, according to the Moslems, many heavens and many earths.    [back]

23.    See chapter xx.    [back]

24.    The Shafei school allows its disciples to curse Al-Yazid, the son of Muawiyah, whose cruelties to the descendants of the Prophet, and crimes and vices, have made him the Judas Iscariot of Al-Islam. I have heard Hanafi Moslems, especially Sayyids, revile him; but this is not, strictly speaking, correct. The Shiahs, of course, place no limits to their abuse of him. You first call a man Omar, then Shimr, (the slayer of Al-Hosayn), and lastly, Yazid, beyond which insult does not extend.    [back]

25.    Ukayl or Akil, as many write the name, died at Damascus, during the Caliphate of Al-Muawiyah. Some say he was buried there, others that his corpse was transplanted to Al-Madinah, and buried in a place where formerly his house, known as Dar Ukayl, stood.    [back]

26.    Some are of opinion that the ceremonies of Ziyarat formerly did, and still should begin here. But the order of visitation differs infinitely, and no two authors seem to agree. I was led by Shaykh Hamid, and indulged in no scruples.    [back]

27.    Burckhardt makes a series of mistakes upon this subject. “Hassan ibn Aly, whose trunk only lies buried here (in El Bakia), his head having been sent to Cairo, where it is preserved in the fine Mosque called El-Hassanya.”

The Mosque Al-Hasanayn (the two Hasans) is supposed to contain only the head of Al-Hosayn, which, when the Crusaders took Ascalon, was brought from thence by Sultan Salih or Beybars, and conveyed to Cairo. As I have said before, the Persians in Egypt openly show their contempt of this tradition.

It must be remembered that Al-Hasan died poisoned at Al-Madinah by his wife Jaadah. Al-Hosayn, on the other hand, was slain and decapitated at Kerbela. According to the Shiahs, Zayn al-Abidin obtained from Yazid, after a space of forty days, his father’s head, and carried it back to Kerbela, for which reason the event is known to the Persians as “Chilleyeh sar o tan,” the “forty days of (separation between) the head and trunk.” They vehemently deny that the body lies at Kerbela, and the head at Cairo.

Others, again, declare that Al-Hosayn’s head was sent by Yazid to Amir bin al-As, the governor of Al-Madinah, and was by him buried near Fatimah’s Tomb. Nor are they wanting who declare, that after Yazid’s death the head was found in his treasury, and was shrouded and buried at Damascus. Such is the uncertainty which hangs over the early history of Al-Islam.    [back]

28.    The names of the fifth and sixth Imams, Mohammed al-Bakia and Jaafar al-Sadik, were omitted by Hamid, as doubtful whether they are really buried here or not.    [back]

29.    Moslem historians seem to delight in the obscurity which hangs over the lady’s last resting-place, as if it were an honour even for the receptacle of her ashes to be concealed from the eyes of men. Some place her in the Harim, relying upon this tradition: Fatimah, feeling about to die, rose up joyfully, performed the greater ablution, dressed herself in pure garments, spread a mat upon the floor of her house near the Prophet’s Tomb, lay down fronting the Kiblah, placed her hand under her cheek, and said to her attendant, “I am pure and in a pure dress; now let no one uncover my body, but bury me where I lie!” When Ali returned he found his wife dead, and complied with her last wishes. Omar bin Abd al-Aziz believed this tradition, when he included the room in the Mosque; and generally in Al-Islam Fatimah is supposed to be buried in the Harim.

Those who suppose the Prophet’s daughter to be buried in Al-Bakia rely upon a saying of the Imam Hasan, “If men will not allow me to sleep beside my grandsire, place me in Al-Bakia, by my mother.” They give the following account of his death and burial. His body was bathed and shrouded by Ali and Omar Salmah. Others say that Asma Bint Umays, the wife of Abu Bakr, was present with Fatimah, who at her last hour complained of being carried out, as was the custom of those days, to burial like a man. Asma promised to make her a covered bier, like a bride’s litter, of palm sticks, in shape like what she had seen in Abyssinia: whereupon Fatimah smiled for the first time after her father’s death, and exacted from her a promise to allow no one entrance as long as her corpse was in the house. Ayishah, shortly afterwards knocking at the door, was refused admittance by Asma; the former complained of this to her father, and declared that her stepmother had been making a bride’s litter to carry out the corpse. Abu Bakr went to the door, and when informed by his wife that all was the result of Fatimah’s orders, he returned home making no objection. The death of the Prophet’s daughter was concealed by her own desire from high and low; she was buried at night, and none accompanied her bier, or prayed at her grave, except Ali and a few relatives. The Shiahs found a charge of irreverence and disrespect against Abu Bakr for absence on this occasion.

The third place which claims Fatimah’s honoured remains, is a small Mosque in Al-Bakia, South of the Sepulchre of Abbas. It was called Bayt al-Huzn—House of Mourning—because here the lady passed the end of her days, lamenting the loss of her father. Her tomb appears to have formerly been shown there. Now visitors pray, and pray only twice,—at the Harim, and in the Kubbat al-Abbasiyah.    [back]

30.    The other celebrities in Al-Bakia are:

Fatimah bint As’ad, mother of Ali. She was buried with great religious pomp. The Prophet shrouded her with his own garment (to prevent hell from touching her), dug her grave, lay down in it (that it might never squeeze or be narrow to her), assisted in carrying the bier, prayed over her, and proclaimed her certain of future felicity. Over her tomb was written, “The grave hath not closed upon one like Fatimah, daughter of As’ad.”

Historians relate that Mohammed lay down in only four graves: 1. Khadijah’s, at Meccah. 2. Kasim’s, her son by him. 3. That of Umm Ruman, Ayishah’s mother. 4. That of Abdullah al-Mazni, a friend and companion.

Abd al-Rahman bin Auf was interred near Osman bin Mazun. Ayishah offered to bury him in her house near the Prophet, but he replied that he did not wish to narrow her abode, and that he had promised to sleep by the side of his friend Mazun. I have already alluded to the belief that none has been able to occupy the spare place in the Hujrah.

Ibn Hufazah al-Sahmi, who was one of the Ashab al-Hijratayn (who had accompanied both flights, the greater and the lesser), here died of a wound received at Ohod, and was buried in Shawwal, A.H. 3, one month after Osman bin Mazun.

Abdullah bin Mas’ud, who, according to others, is buried at Kufah.

Saad ibn Zararah, interred near Osman bin Mazun.

Saad bin Maaz, who was buried by the Prophet. He died of a wound received during the battle of the Moat.

Abd al-Rahman al-Ausat, son of Omar, the Caliph. He was generally known as Abu Shahmah, the Father of Fat: he sickened and died, after receiving from his father the religious flogging—impudicitiæ causa.

Abu Sufiyan bin al-Haris, grandson of Abd al-Muttalib. He was buried near Abdullah bin Jaafar al-Tayyar, popularly known as the most generous of the Arabs, and near Ukayl bin Abi Talib, the brother of Ali mentioned above.

These are the principal names mentioned by popular authors. The curious reader will find in old histories a multitude of others, whose graves are now utterly forgotten at Al-Madinah.    [back]

31.    See chapter xix.    [back]

32.    The story is related in another way. Whilst Mohammed was praying the Asr or afternoon prayer at the Harim he turned his face towards Meccah. Some of the Companions ran instantly to all the Mosques, informing the people of the change. In many places they were not listened to, but the Benu Salmah who were at prayer instantly faced Southwards. To commemorate their obedience the Mosque was called Al-Kiblatayn.    [back]

33.    I cannot say whether this valuable stone be still at the Mosque Benu Tifr. But I perfectly remember that my friend Larking had a mutilated sphynx in his garden at Alexandria, which was found equally efficacious.    [back]

34.    See chapter xvii.    [back]

35.    Mohammed’s eldest son was Kasim, who died in his infancy, and was buried at Meccah. Hence the Prophet’s pædonymic, Abu Kasim, the sire of Kasim.    [back]

36.    Ayishah used to relate that she was exceedingly jealous of the Coptic girl’s beauty, and of the Prophet’s love for her. Mohammed seeing this, removed Mariyah from the house of Harisat bin al-Numan, in which he had placed her, to the Awali of Al-Madinah, where the Mosque now is. Oriental authors use this term Awali, high-grounds, to denote the plains to the Eastward and Southward of the City, opposed to Al-Safilah, the lower ground on the W. and N.W.    [back]

37.    I am very doubtful about this location of the Masjid al-Fath.    [back]

38.    A magus, a magician, one supposed to worship fire. The other rival sect of the time was the Saban who adored the heavenly bodies.    [back]

39.    The Mosque of reward in heaven. It is so called because during the War of the Moat, the Prophet used to live in a cave there, and afterwards he made it a frequent resort for prayer.    [back]

40.    Hamzah’s fall is now placed at the Kubbat al-Masra. See chapter xx.    [back]

Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah vol. II - Contents    |     Chapter XXIII - The Damascus Caravan

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