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another evening. People of consideration who live nearer to Mushed than to Kerbelah, generally send the bodies of their dead friends to be buried at the former place.

I should not neglect to mention that a person who has been to Mecca is entitled to bear the title of “Hadjee” before his name. This means “ Pilgrim," and is a distinction much valued in Mohammedan countries.

Mr. D. Is it confined to those who go to Mecca ?

U. O. Not strictly; particularly now that very few go there. It is often assumed by persons who have gone to either Mushed or Kerbelah, if it happens to be at a good distance from their own homes.

Mr. Dillon. I am surprised to find that one of their places of pilgrimage is to the shrine of a woman?

U. O. It is remarkable enough. But in fact all these pilgrimages, and the veneration paid to particular saints and relics, is a corruption of the simple religion taught by Mohammed, which forbade any thing like religious veneration to be paid to any being but God. But now they have come to pay a deep religious respect, very like worship, not only to Mohammed, Ali, Hossein and the other Imaums; but to their descendants, whom they call Imaum-zadehs zadeh meaning son or descendant; so they also say “ Shah-zadeh” for a son of the king. There are hundreds of places in Persia where there is the tomb of some saint which the people of the neighbourhood view with veneration, and to which pilgrimages are made from a greater or less distance, according to the reputation it enjoys. Even villages which have no formal shrine, have generally a conspicuous tomb containing the remains of some saint or martyr. A few of the whole are pretty generally known, and are frequented from distant parts, but the greater part are quite unknown except in the district in which they are found.

Mr. D. It used to be very much the same in England formerly. There were a multitude of places considered holy on account of tombs, relics and wells of blessed water.

U. 0. Precisely so: there is much resemblance. The Persians hold in great respect even the garments and other relics of those holy persons ; and they think that there is a sort of miraculous power in their tombs, so that

prayers offered there will be granted, which would be neglected elsewhere.

H. Do you mean that these things make a difference between the Sheahs and Soonees?

U. O. Not exactly: for the Soonees have also plenty of saints, although their saints are not the same as those of the Sheahs. I think, however, that the Sheahs go much further than the Soonees in this matter.

What I have told you comprehends the grand differences between the Sheahs and Soonees. But there are some others in small matters which have sprung up, I know not how, unless it be that their hatred to each other has made them averse to having things exactly alike. It would be tiresome to reckon up examples, such as that they stroke their arms differently when they wash themselves before prayers, and that when they are at prayers they hold their hands in a different manner — the Soonees crossing theirs upon their bosom, in a part where the Sheahs let theirs fall down by their sides.

H. These are small matters, indeed.

U. O. Small as they are, the great majority of the Soonees believe in their conscience, that the least of them will shut the Sheahs out from

heaven, and the Sheahs are quite of the same opinion as it regards the Soonees.

H. Oh!

U. O. So say I:-Oh!—and with these two oh’s we will finish for this evening.

225

CHAPTER XII.

PIRE WORSHIPPERS.—THE NUROOZ.

Henry. Sir, I have read that the Persians were worshippers of fire. It seems they are not so now?

Uncle Oliver. By no means. I have been infinitely astonished to hear people of some information speak of the Persians as if they still believed them to be worshippers of fire. But the fact is, that they not only do not worship fire themselves, but are great persecutors of those who do.

H. Then there are worshippers of fire ?

U. O. Yes. The ancient Persians were what are called fire-worshippers. When the country was conquered by the Mohammedans of Arabia, the bulk of the nation adopted the religion of the conquerors to save their lives.

H. But they did not all change their religion?

U. O. No. Many of them went to India, VOL. II.

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