ONE of the most impressive rites of Islam is the daily prayer ritual. It has elicited the admiration of many who have observed it, and, ignorant of the real character and content of Moslem prayer interpreted it entirely from the Christian standpoint. What is understood by prayer, however, in Christendom, and what the Moslem calls by the same name are to a degree distinct conceptions. In the punctilious regard of position, prostration, ablution and the peculiar gestures and movements of the hand, the head and the body it is clear that prayer is more than a spiritual exercise. Moslems themselves are at a loss to explain the reason for many of the details which they have learned from their youth. The various sects in orthodox Islam can be distinguished by the casual observer most easily in the method of ablution and in the prostration of the prayer ritual.
Theodore Nöldeke of Germany, and the Dutch scholar Prof. A.J. Wensinck have made a special study of the origin and detail of the prayer ritual, the latter more especially of the Moslem laws of ablution.1, 2 Further study of the sources given and long experience in many Moslem lands have led to the following observations and conclusions on the subject. In the preparation of the five daily prayers, especially in the process of ablution - the object of the Moslem seems to be to free himself from everything that has connection with supernatural powers or demons as opposed to the worship of the one true God. That is the reason for its supreme importance. Wensinck tells us that these beliefs have little or nothing to do with bodily purity as such, but are intended to free the worshiper from the presence or influence of evil spirits. It is this demonic pollution which must be removed. In two traditions from Muslim we read, "Said the Prophet: 'If any of you wakens up from sleep then let him blow his nose three times. For the devil spends the night in a man's nostrils.'" And again: "Said Omar ibn el-Khitab (may God have mercy on him): 'A certain man performed ablution but left a dry spot on his foot.' When the Prophet of God saw it he said: 'Go back and wash better,' then he returned and came back to prayer. Said the Prophet of God: 'If a Moslem servant of God performs the ablution when he washes his face every sin which his face has committed is taken away by it with the water or with the last drop of water. And when he washes his hands the sin of his hands are taken away with the water or with the last drop of water. And when he washes his feet all the sins which his feet have committed are taken away with the water or with the last drop of water until he becomes pure from sin altogether." Goldziher has shown in one of his essays that, according to Semitic conception, water drives away demons.
That ablution in Islam as taught by Mohammed to his disciples was originally not intended to remove physical uncleanness but was a ceremonial precaution against spiritual evil, of demons, etc., is evident when we compare it with the ablutions practiced by pagan races in their ritual. For example, Skeat describes the bath ceremony as practiced at Perak:
"Limes are used in Perak, as we use soap. When a Malay has resolved on having a really good 'scrub' they are cut in two and squeezed (ramas) in the hand. In Penang a root called sintok is usually preferred to limes. When the body is deemed sufficiently cleansed, the performer, taking his stand facing the East, spits seven times, and then counts up to seven aloud. After the word Tujoh (seven) he throws away the remains of the limes or sintok to the West, saying aloud, Pergi-lah samua sial jambalang deripada badan aku ka pusat tasek Pawjangi, 'Misfortune and spirits of evil, begone from my body to the whirlpool of the lake Paujangi!' Then he throws (jurus) a few buckets of water over himself, and the operation is complete."
The ceremony just described is evidently a form of purification by water. Similar purificatory ceremonies form an integral part of Malay customs at birth, adolescence, marriage, sickness, death, and in fact at every critical period of the life of a Malay."3
According to al-Bokhari the washings before prayer should always begin on the right side of the body and not on the left. Another tradition gives the value of the hairs of the Prophet when they fell in the washing-vessel. The Prophet used to wash his feet when he wore sandals by simply passing his hands over the outside of the sandals; the object, therefore, cannot have been to cleanse impurity but to ward off demons. Another tradition is given as follows: According to 'Abd-el-Rahman, a man came to Omar ibn el-Khattab and said, "I am in a state of impurity and cannot find water." Ammar ibn Yasir said to Omar ibn el-Khattab, "Do you remember the day that you and I traveled together. You did not make your prayers, but I rolled myself in the sand and prayed. When I told the Prophet of this, he said, 'That was enough,' and so saying he took some earth in his hands, blew on it and then rubbed his face and hands with it." 4, 5 'Abd-el-Rahman was witness when "Amar said to Omar," "We were in a detachment and we were in a state of impurity, etc. ..." and he uses the words: "he spat on his hands" instead of "he breathed."
These two traditions from Bokhari also show the value ascribed to the animistic custom of blowing and spitting.
There are a number of traditions regarding spitting in a mosque. It must in no case be done in front of any one, nor to the right hand but to the left.6 According to Annas Ibn Malek, to spit in a mosque is a sin: one may expiate it by wiping up the spittle. Again, in entering a mosque one must put the right foot forward first for fear of evil consequences. In the same way we are told that a man who was carrying arrows in his hand entered a mosque, and the Prophet cried: "Hold them by the point." The only reason for this command, as is shown by its connection, is that the points of the arrows or other sharp instruments might arouse jinn or damage the value of prayer. We also find traditions concerning such Animistic practices as crossing the fingers or the limbs at the time of prayer.
In regard to the ritual ablution (ghasl) after certain natural functions, Wensinck remarks, "Das Geschlechtsleben stand im semitischen Heidentum unter dem Schutze gewisser Götter and war ihnen somit geweiht. Die männlichen und weiblichen Prostituierten bei den pälastinischen und babylonischen Heiligtümern sind ja bekannt genug. Ich brauche darüber kein Wort zu verlieren. Weil nun der betreffende Gott für den Monotheismus Dämon geworden ist, so ist auch sein Kult, das Geschlechtsleben, für den Monotheismus dämonisch." There are many traditions which assert a close relationship between sleep and the presence of Jinn. It is during sleep that the soul, according to animistic belief leaves the body. Therefore, one must waken those who sleep, gently, lest the soul be prevented from returning. Not only during sleep, but during illness demons are present and in Egypt it is considered unfortunate for any one who is ceremonially unclean to approach a patient suffering from ophthalmia.
The Moslem when he prays is required, according to tradition, to cover his head, especially the back part of the skull. This according to Wensinck is also due to animistic belief; for evil spirits enter the body by this way. Goldziher shown that the name given to this part of the body (al qafa) has a close relation to the kind of poetry called Qafiya, which originally meant a poem to wound the skull, or in other words an imprecatory poem. It is therefore for the dread of evil powers which might enter the mind that the head must be covered during prayer. References are found to this practice both in Moslem tradition and in the Talmud, on which they are based. Again it is noteworthy that those places which are ritually unclean, such as closets, baths, etc., are considered the habitation of demons.
According to tradition a Moslem cannot perform his prayer without a Sutra or some object placed between himself and the Kibla (the direction of Mecca) in order, "that nothing may harm him by passing in between." Of this custom we speak later. The call of the Muezzin according to Al-Bokhari drives away the demons and Satan.7 No one dares to recite the Koran, which is a holy book, without first repeating the words, "I take refuge in God against Satan the accursed." We may add to all this what Mittwoch has shown in his book "Zur Entstehungsgeschichte des islamischen Gebets und Kultus," that the Takbir itself (that is the cry Allahu Akbar, God is greater), one of the elements of daily prayer, is a cry against demons. The raising of the hands during prayer and the movement of the forefinger is perhaps to ward off the spirits of the air,8 or it may have a connection with the Qanut. Others say that the spreading out or the stretching forth of the fingers and arms is to prevent any idol or thing of blasphemy being hidden between the fingers or under the armpits, a ruse used formerly by the unbelievers and discovered by the Angel Gabriel.
Among the Arabs before the time of Mohammed and among Moslems to-day, sneezing, especially during prayer, is an ominous sign and should be accompanied by a pious ejaculation. This also is clearly animistic; among the tribes of Malaysia the general belief is that when one sneezes, the soul leaves the body. At the close of the prayer, as is well-known, the worshiper salutes the two angels on his right and left shoulders. When one sneezes one should say, "I ask forgiveness of God"; when one yawns, however, the breath (soul) passes inward and one says, "Praise be to God."
Not only the preparations for prayer and prayer itself but the times9 of prayer have a distinct connection with the animistic belief. The noon-day prayer is never held at high noon but a short time after the sun reaches the meridian. Wensinck points out that this is due to the belief that the sun-god is really a demon and must not be worshiped by the monotheist. According to al-Bokhari the Prophet postponed the noon-day prayer until after high noon for "the greatest heat of the day belongs to the heat of hell." Nor is it permitted to pray shortly after sunrise for "the sun rises between the horns of the devil." According to Abu Huraira Abdallah ibn 'Omar, the prophet of God said: "When it is excessively hot wait until it is cool to make your prayers, for intense heat comes from hell."
Abu-Dzarr said: The Muezzin of the Prophet had called for the noon-prayer. "Wait until it is cooler, wait until it is cooler, or wait ..." said the Prophet. Then he added: "Great heat is of hell: so when it is excessively hot wait until it is cool, then make your prayers." Abu-Dzarr10 adds: "And we waited until we saw the shadow declining."
That certain hours of the day are unlucky and must be guarded against is a pagan belief probably based on their fear of darkness. Maxwell, quoted by Skeat (page 15), says: "Sunset is the hour when evil spirits of all kinds have most power. In Perak, children are often called indoors at this time to save from unseen dangers. Sometimes, with the same object, a woman belonging to the house where there are young children, will chew kuniet terus (an evil-smelling root), supposed to be much disliked by demons of all kinds, and spit it out at seven different points as she walks round the house.
"The yellow glow which spreads over the western sky, when it is lighted up with the last rays of the dying sun, is called mambang kuning ('the yellow deity'), a term indicative of the superstitious dread associated with this particular period."10
In this connection it is curious to note that the unlucky times among the Malay people correspond exactly with the periods appointed for Moslem prayer. Among the Malays each of these periods has a special meaning and a special guardian deity, one of the Hindu divinities. The table given corresponds very closely to the Moslem prayer schedule. "Perhaps the oldest and best known of the systems of lucky and unlucky times is the one called Katika Lima, or the Five Times. Under it the day is divided into five parts and five days form a cycle: to each of these divisions is assigned a name, the names being Maswara (Maheswara), Kala; Sri, Brahma, and Bisnu (Vishnu), which recur in the order shown in the following table or diagram:
The most interesting thing of all, however, is the, tradition regarding the Sutra. The word means something that covers or protects; from what is it a protection and why is it used? The Commentaries do not explain what the Sutra really means but it is very clearly a protection against demons, as is shown by the traditions given.13
According to Ibn Omar, on the feast day (when the fast was broken) the Messenger of God gave him an order when he went out to bring him a stick and to stick it before him and it was before this stick that he made his prayers, while the faithful were ranged behind him. He did the same thing when he traveled and it is from this that the emirs took the custom. Other authorities say the Sutra of the Prophet was the short spear or the camel-saddle, or his camel when kneeling.14 A curious tradition is given by Abu Dawud on the authority of Ibn Abbas who said, "I think the Apostle of God said, If one of you prays without a sutra (a thing set up by a praying person) before him, his prayer is apt to be annulled by a dog, or an ass, or a pig, or a Jew, or a Magi, or a menstruating woman; if they pass before him they ought to be punished on that account; with the pelting of stones."15
Abu-Johaifa said: "The Prophet went out during the heat of the day and when he came to El-Batha and prayed two rakas for the noon-prayer and the evening prayer, he stuck a pike before him and made his ablutions. The faithful washed themselves with the rest of the water."16
The following tradition is most important as it shows what the Sutra originally meant. The reference to the demon is animistic: "Abu Salih es-Sam'an said: I saw something that separated him from the crowd. A young man of the Bni Abu Mo'ait trying to pass before him, Abu Said gave him a push full on the chest. The young man looked round for another way out and not finding any, he returned. Abu Said pushed him back still more violently. The young man cursed him and then went and told Merwan of Abu Said's conduct. The latter at this moment entered and Merwan said to him: "What is the matter with you, O Abu Said, that you thus treat one of your own religion?" "I have heard the Prophet pronounce these words," answered Abu Said, "when one of you prays, let him place something before him which will separate him from the public, and if any one tries to pass between turn him away and if he refuse to leave let him use force, for it is a demon.""17 Muslim adds:18 "If any of you pray do not allow any one to pass between himself and the Sutra for it protects from the demons."
The Sutra or guard placed before the one in prayer is usually some object such as a stone or a stick placed at a certain distance from the one praying: i.e. about one foot beyond where his head would touch the ground. It is also a sign that none must pass before him, but never used except by men of mature years and serious mind, and then only in open or public places, never in a room or house-top. If stones are used they must never be less than three, otherwise it would seem as if the stone were the object of worship.
There are cases in which passing before one at prayer is counted as sin either to the pray-er or to the one passing, i.e.:
(a) If he who prays is obliged to pray in the public way, and there is no other way of passing except before him, there is sin neither to the prayer or to the passer-by.
(b) If he who prays chooses a public place in preference to one less exposed and one passes in front of him, who could as easily have gone behind, sin is accounted to both of them.
(c) If he who prays chooses a public place in preference to one less exposed and the one who passes has no choice but to go in front of him sin is accounted to him who prays.
(d) If he who prays chooses an unexposed place and some one deliberately passes in front when there is space behind, sin is accounted to the passer-by and not to him who prays.
"The practices among the Shiah Moslems differ in some respects from those of the Sunnis," says Miss Holliday of Tabriz, Persia. "A Shiah about to pray takes his place looking toward the Kibla at Mecca; if he be a strict Moslem he lays before him nearest the Kibla and where he can put his forehead upon it, the Muhr which is indispensable. It generally consists of earth from Kerbela, compressed into a small tablet and bearing Arabic inscriptions; it is various in shape. If one has not this object, he can use a common stone, a piece of wood or a clod of earth; in the baths they keep small pieces of wood for the convenience of worshipers. With regard to wood, they say all the trees in the world came from heaven, and their life is directly from God, so they are holy objects. The Kerbela talismans are called turbat as being made from holy earth from the tomb city of the Imam Hussain. On the side nearest him of the muhr the worshiper lays a small pocket comb, then next to himself the rosary.
"After prayer, they point the right forefinger first in the direction of the Kibla, saluting Mohammed as the Son of Abdullah and the Imam Hussain grandson of the Prophet, son of Fatima, then to the east saluting Imam Riza as the Gareeb, or stranger, at Meshhed in Khorassan, then to the west, saluting the Imam Mahdi, as the Sahib-i-zaman or Lord of the Age. The back is to the north; this looks like sun-worship."
Among the customs which are forbidden during prayer is that of crossing or closing the fingers. They should be held widely spread apart. We have the following tradition in Ibn Maja: 19 "Said the Prophet: 'Do not put your fingers close together during prayer. It is also forbidden to cover the mouth during prayer.'" Another tradition reads that the Apostle of God saw a man who had crossed his fingers during prayer or joined them close together; he approached him and made him spread his fingers.20
That the yawning, to which reference was made, has connection with spirits and demons is evident from a tradition given in the same paragraph, namely: "If any of you yawn, let him put his hand upon his mouth for verily the devil is laughing at him."
The Moslem lives constantly in dread of evil spirits; this is shown by other traditions regarding the prayer ritual. For example, we read in the Sunnan of Ibn Maja21 that Mohammed forbade prayer being made on or near watering places of camels because camels were created by devils. It is an old superstition that Satan had a hand in the creation of the camel; the explanation is given in the commentators. We are solemnly told that the fingers must be spread so as to afford no nestling place for evil demons and that therefore the method of washing the hands (rakhlil) consists in rubbing the outspread fingers of both hands between each other. (Ibn Maja, Vol. I, p. 158, Nasai, Vol. I, pp. 30, 173, 186-7.) The last reference is particularly important as it shows that Mohammed inculcated the practice of moving the first finger during prayer. 22 Undoubtedly the practice of combing the hair with the fingers outspread (Takhlil esh-Sha'ar) to which al-Bukhari refers (Vol.1, p.51) has a similar significance. Some of the sects do not spread the fingers of the right hand during prayer but make a special effort to spread those of the left. This may be because the left hand is used for ablutions and therefore is specially apt to be infected by demonic influence.
We give further reference to all such practices as recorded in a standard work on tradition, the Sunmin of An-Nasai. 23 The niche in a mosque that shows the direction to which prayer is made called the Mihrab, i.e., "the place of fighting," or perhaps, the instrument by which we fight the demons? There are many traditions concerning Mohammed's struggle with afrits and Jinn in a mosque. The most interesting one is given in Muslim (Vol. I, p. 204). "Said the Apostle of God (on him be prayers and peace): A certain demon of the Jinn attacked me yesterday in order to stop my prayers, but, verily, God gave me victory over him. I was about to tie him to the side of a pillar of the pillars of the Mosque so that ye might get up in the morning and behold him, all of you, when I remembered the prayer of my brother Solomon: "O Lord, forgive me and give me a dominion such as no one ever had," and after that God set the demon free!" The Mihrab in a mosque, I am told, takes the place of the Sutra outside of a mosque and serves the same purpose.
The forming of ranks in Moslem prayers as they face the Mihrab, is most important and therefore they are extremely careful of it. There are many traditions in this respect which can only have relation to belief in Jinn. For example, not only must the worshipers stand in a row, but in a mosque it is considered most important to stand so close together that nothing can possibly pass between. They stand ready like soldiers in massed-formation. Here is the tradition:
Anas states that the Prophet said: "Observe your ranks, for I can see you from behind my back." "Each one of us," he adds, "put his shoulder in touch with his neighbor's and his foot with that of his neighbor"24 We must add to this another superstition, namely, it is bad luck to pray on the left hand of the Imam. Ibn-'Abbas said: "On a certain night I made my prayers together with the Prophet. As I was placing myself on his left, the Messenger of God taking hold of me by the back of my head, placed me on his right. After having made our prayers, he lay down and rested until the muezzin came to look for him. Then he got up an made his prayers without making his ablutions."25
We have already spoken of the lifting of the hands in prayer. This is an important matter for discussion in all works of Fiqh.
In the prayer called Qunut, which takes place during and as part of the morning prayer (Salat), the hands are raised in magical fashion. Goldziher believes the original signification of this was a curse or imprecation on the enemy; such was the custom of the Arabs. The Prophet cursed his enemies in this way. So did also the early Caliphs. In Lane's Dictionary (Art. Qunut) we find the present prayer given as follows: "O God, verily we beg of Thee aid, and we beg of Thee forgiveness. And we believe in Thee and we rely or Thee, and we laud Thee well, and we will not be unthankful to Thee for Thy favor, and we cast off and forsake him who disobeys Thee: O God, Thee we worship and to Thee we perform the divinely-appointed act of prayer, and prostrate ourselves; and we are quick in working for Thee and in serving Thee; we hope for Thy mercy, and we dread Thy punishment; verily (or may) Thy punishment overtake the unbelievers. It is said of the Prophet that he stood during a whole month after the prayer of daybreak cursing the tribes of Rial and Dhukwan. We read in Al-Muwatta (Vol. I, p. 216) that at the time of the Qunut they used to curse their enemies, the unbelievers, in the month of Ramadhan. Later on this custom was modified or explained away. Al-Bukhari even wrote a book on the subject as to when the hands might be lifted in prayer.
There is no doubt regarding the origin of the Qunut prayer. We learn from Yusuf as Safti in his commentary on Ibn Turki's well-known book on Fiqh (p. 157): "The reason for the legislation concerning the Qunut is as follows: One day there came to the Prophet certain unbelievers who pretended that they had become Moslems and asked him that he would give them aid from among his Companions as a troop against their enemies. So he granted them seventy men from among the Companions; when they departed with them, however, they took them out to the desert and killing them threw them into the well Mayrah. This became known to the Prophet and he mistrusted them and was filled with wrath and began to curse them saying: 'O God, curse Ra'ala and Lahyan and Beni Dhakwan because they mocked God and his Apostle. O God, cause to come down upon them a famine like in the days of Joseph and help el-Walid ibn el-Walid and the weak company of Mecca.' Then Gabriel came down to him and told him to keep quiet, saying, 'God did not send you a reviler and a curser but verily he sent you as a mercy. He did not send you as a punishment. The affair does not concern you; for God will either forgive them or punish them. They are the transgressors.' Then he taught him the Qunut aforementioned, i.e., the prayer now used."
In spite of the assertion of God's unity there are many other things connected with Moslem prayer which show pagan magic, such as the power through certain words and gestures to influence the Almighty. These practices were prevalent before Islam. Professor Goldziher mentions the custom of incantation (Manashada) similar to that practiced by the heathen Kahins. Of certain readers in the early days of Islam it was said: "If so and so would adjure anything upon God he would doubtless obtain it." Not only in formal prayer (Salat) but also in the Du'a (petition) there are magical practices, especially in the prayer for eclipse by the raising of the hands. We are told (al-Bukhari) that on one occasion the Prophet while praying for rain raised his hands so high that one could see the white skin of his arm-pits. In the case of Du'a therefore, the Kibla is said to be heaven itself and not Mecca.
Another gesture used in Du'a is the stroking of the face, or of the body with the hands. This custom, borrowed from the Prophet also has magical effect. At the time of his death the Prophet put his hands in water and washed his face with them, repeating the creed.
Goldziher refers especially to magical elements in the prayer for rain,26 and against eclipses of the sun or moon. These, like excessive drought, were explained and combated by the pagan Arabs in a superstitious manner. Mohammed forbade them to recognize in such phenomena anything more than special manifestations of the omnipotence of the Creator, yet ordained in this case also certain ritual prayers, to be continued as long as the eclipse lasted.
No Mohammedan questions for a moment that the omnipotence of God reveals itself in these eclipses - indeed no doctrine is more popular than that of the omnipotence of God and predestination - yet in the ranks of the people all kinds of superstitions prevail in regard to such phenomena. In these temporary obscurations of sun and moon they discern the action of malignant spirits and do not regard the performance of a simple service of prayer as a sufficient protection. "In Acheh, as in other Mohammedan countries, these prayers are left to the representatives of religion, the teunkus and leubes, while the people of the gampong keep up a mighty uproar beating the great drum of the meunasah, and firing off guns and sometimes even cannons in order to frighten a way the enemies of the sun and moon. Various sorts of ratebs are also held in order to relieve the suffering heavenly body."27
That Moslem prayer has become paganized among the Malays is well known. The whole ceremony of sowing rice and reaping the first crop is thoroughly animistic, and yet it is carried on with Moslem-pagan prayers and invocations. Among many examples we give the following from Skeat.28 He describes how a woman gathers in the first fruits.
"Next she took in one hand (out of the brass tray) the stone, the egg, cockle-shell and candle-nut, and with the other planted the big iron nail in the center of the sheaf close to the foot of the sugar-cane. Then she took in her left hand the cord of tree-bark, and after fumigating it together with all the vessels of rice and oil, took up some of the rice and strewed it round about the sheaf, and then tossed the remainder thrice upwards, some of it falling upon the rest of the company and myself.
"This done, she took the end of the cord in both hands, and encircling the sheaf with it near the ground, drew it slowly upward to the waist of the sheaf, and tied it there, after repeating what is called the 'Ten Prayers' (do'a sapuloh) without once taking breath:
The first is God,
The second, is Muhammad,
The third, Holy Water of the five Hours of Prayer by Day and Night,
The fourth, is Pancha Indra,
The fifth, the Open Door of Daily Bread,
The sixth, the Seven Stories of the Palace-Tower,
The seventh, the Open Door of the rice-sifting Platform,
The eighth, the Open Door of Paradise,
The ninth, is the child in its Mother's Womb,
The tenth is the Child created by God, the reason of its creation being our Lord,
Grant this, 'Isa!
Grant this, Moses!
Grant this, Joseph!
Grant this, David!
Grant me, from God (the opening of) all the doors of my daily bread, on earth, and in heaven."
In Algeria the usual posture used in prayer for rain is standing upright with the elbows bent and palms turned upwards. Prayers for rain must only be done out of doors and with old clothes on, the burnous being worn inside out to express distress and need.
For eclipse of the sun a long prayer is made standing with hands down at the side, fingers extended, then a long prayer while the hands are bent on the knees. These two positions are repeated with each prayer.
In Yemen, at the first of the year, if there is a drought five cows are brought to a special mosque and each one in turn is driven around the mosque three times by a huge crowd of young men, who constantly pray or recite the Koran. In case of an eclipse water is put in large trays in the open air and the people peer into this water searching for the moon's reflection, but in this prayer also is not forgotten.
In 1917 there was a total eclipse of the moon visible in Egypt. As might well be expected the eclipse greatly excited the Egyptian masses, who were very much impressed by the fact that it coincided with Ramadan and the war. Pans and drums as well as other noise-making appliances were beaten by them as long as the phenomenon was visible, and even after its disappearance, many servants refused to go to sleep on the roofs.
Among the Turkish Moslems there is a superstition regarding mg the value of "rain stones" called Yada Rashi, or in Persian Sangi Yada. This superstition dates from before their conversion to Islam but still persists and spread to Morocco. In Tlemcen the Moslems in time of drought gather 70,000 pebbles which are put in seventy sacks; during the night they repeat the Koran prayers over every one of these pebbles, after which the bags are emptied into the wady with the hope of rain.29
This service of prayer is also occasionally held in Java, under the name istika; but a more popular method of rain-making is "giving the cat a bath," which is sometimes accompanied by small processions and other ceremonies. "In Acheh, so far as I am aware," says Dr. Snouck Hurgronje, "the actual custom no longer survives, though it has left traces of its former existence in sundry popular expressions. 'It is very dry; we must give the cat a bath and then we shall get rain,' say the padi-planters when their harvest threatens to fail through drought."
"In Tunis and Tripoli," Major Tremearne tells us, "if there is no rain, and the crops are being ruined, the Arabs go in procession outside the city with drums and flags, and pray for rain, and, according to Haj Ali, cows are made to urinate and the roofs of the houses are wetted with water by the Arabs and Hausas with them as a means of bringing down rain. But if there is no result the negroes are summoned to use their magic."
"In Northern Algeria, amongst the Magazawa of Gobir, the rain was made to fall and to cease in the following manner, according to Haj Ali. The rain-makers were nine in number and would go around with wooden clubs to a tsamiya (tamarind) or a ganje (rubber) tree near the gate of the town, and sacrifice a black bull, the blood being allowed to flow into the roots. Then four pots of giya (beer) were brought, and were drunk by the rain-makers. After this, the eldest of the nine (Mai-Shibko) would rise, put on the hide and call out: "You Youths, You Youths, You Youths, ask the Man (Allah) to send down water for us, tell the Owner of the Heavens that men are dying here, ask him to spit upon us." The eight others would rise and stand around the old man, and call out in a loud voice what they had been told to say, and add: "If you do not send rain we will kill this old man. We are true to you, see, we have sacrificed a bull to you." Then brandishing their weapons in the air, they would continue: "If you do not send down the rain, we will throw up our clubs at you."30
Regarding prayers for rain offered up by the Mohammedans in China we glean the following from the Revue du Monde Musulman (Vol.26, p.89, article by G. Cordier): "A procession is formed headed by the ahong, or priest, carrying three objects which I will here describe:
(1) A sack filled with 7,000 stones, very clean and which have been gathered from the bed of some river near by. These may be said to represent a sort of rosary as ten prayers are repeated over each stone."
(2) A sword of the shape employed in the mosques but without a sheath. On the handle of this sword is inscribed the words pao-kien, i.e., the 'precious sword,' and in Arabic the creed. This sword is made of wood and is covered with inscriptions in Arabic characters and carried in a case made of yellow linen.
(3) A tablet made of brass. The Chinese call it Chao p'ai, that is to say the 'Tablet that is planted.' The Moslems call it t'ong P'ai 'Tablet of brass,' and in Arabic lukh nahas. This tablet is also covered with Arabic inscriptions. "Forty-four flags covered with quotations from the Koran are also carried in these processions, aud as they march prayers are chanted. Arriving at Hei-long-t'an, the source of the black dragon, the procession halts near the basin called Etang du dragon. There a Moslem beats the water with the sword while the prayers are continued.
This done an ahong holding the brass tablet gets into the water and throws it in so as to make a fish come out (others say a water snake). when this is caught they place it in some water taken from the same source and carry it back to the mosque and is kept there until the rain comes down. When this happens it is taken back to the basin where it is again thrown in."31
In conclusion we may here give four of the short final chapters of the Koran that are used at the time of the five daily prayers and which contain allusions to animistic and pagan practices current in Arabia before Islam. It is true that the beautiful opening chapter of the Koran with its lofty theism and the chapter of the Forenoon with its pathetic reference to Mohammed's childhood are frequently on Moslem lips. So also is the chapter of the Unity (CXII). But what thoughts a Moslem has when he repeats the following chapters, if he understands the words, we may learn from the commentaries. After reading what they tell us there remains little doubt that paganism entered Islam by the door of the Koran!
"In the name of the merciful and compassionate God.
"Verily, we sent it down on the Night of Power! "And what shall make thee know what the Night of Power is ? - the Night of Power is better than a thousand months!
"The angels and the spirits descend therein, by the permission of their Lord with every bidding.
"Peace it is until rising of the dawn!32
"In the name of the merciful and compassionate God.
"By the snorting chargers.
"And those who strike fire with their hoofs.
"And those who make incursions in the morning,
"And raise up dust therein.
"And cleave through a host therein.
"Verily, man is to his Lord ungrateful; and, verily, he is a witness of that.
"Verily, he is keen in his love of good.
"Does he not know when the tombs are exposed, and what is in the breasts is brought to light?
"Verily, thy Lord upon that day indeed is well aware."33
"In the name of the merciful and compassionate God.
"Say, 'I seek refuge in the Lord of the daybreak, from the evil of what He has created; and from the evil of the night when it cometh on; and from the evil of the blowers upon knots; and from the evil of the envious when he envies.'"34
"Say, 'I seek refuge in the Lord of men, the King of men, the God of men, from the evil of the whisperer, who slinks off, who whispers into the hearts of men - from jinns and men.'"
The Influence of Animism on Islam
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