HAVING in the preceding section spoken of the fundamental points of the Muhammadan religion, relating both to faith and to practice, I shall in this and the two following discourses speak in the same brief method of some other precepts and institutions of the Quran which deserve peculiar notice, and first of certain things which are thereby prohibited.

The drinking of wine and spiritous liquors forbidden.

The drinking of wine, under which name all sorts of strong and inebriating liquors are comprehended, is forbidden in the Quran in more places than one.1 Some, indeed, have imagined that excess therein is only forbidden, and that the moderate use of wine is allowed by two passages in the same book2 but the more received opinion is, that to drink any strong liquors, either in a lesser quantity or in a greater, is absolutely unlawful; and though libertines3 indulge themselves in a contrary practice, yet the more conscientious are so strict, especially if they have performed the pilgrimage to Makkah,4 that they hold it unlawful not only to taste wine, but to press grapes for the making of it, to buy or to sell it, or even to maintain themselves with the money arising by the sale of that liquor. The Persians, however, as well as the Turks, are very fond of wine; and if one asks them how it comes to pass that they venture to drink it, when it is

1 See c. 2, v. 218, and C. 5, V.92.

2 Cap. 2, v.218, and C. 16, v.69. Vide D'Herbel., Bibl. Orient., p. 696.

3 Vide Smith, De Morib. et Instit. Turcar, Ep. 2, p .28, &C.

4 Vide Chardin, ubi supra, p. 212.


so directly forbidden by their religion, they answer, that it is with them as with the Christians, whose religion prohibits drunkenness and whoredom as great sins, and who glory, notwithstanding, some in debauching girls and married women, and others in drinking to excess.1

Question as to coffee and tobacco.

It has been a question whether coffee comes not under and the above-mentioned prohibition,2 because the fumes of it have some effect on the imagination. This drink, which was first publicly used at Aden in Arabia Felix, about the middle of the ninth century of the Hijra, and thence gradually introduced into Makkah, Madina, Egypt, Syria, and other parts of the Levant, has been the occasion of great disputes and disorders, having been sometimes publicly condemned and forbidden, and again declared lawful and allowed.3 At present the use of coffee is generally tolerated, if not granted, as is that of tobacco, though the more religious make a scruple of taking the latter, not only because it inebriates, but also out of respect to a traditional saying of their prophet (which, if it could be made out to be his, would prove him a prophet indeed), "That in the latter days there should be men who should bear the name of Muslims, but should not be really such; and that they should smoke a certain weed, which should be called TOBACCO." However, the Eastern nations are generally so addicted to both, that they say, "A dish of coffee and a pipe of tobacco are a complete entertainment"; and the Persians have a proverb that coffee with-out tobacco is meat without salt.4

Opium and bang (which latter is the leaves of hemp in pills or conserve) are also by the rigid Muhammadans esteemed unlawful, though not mentioned in the Quran,

1 Chardin, ubi sup., p.344.

2 Abd al Qadir Muhammad al Ansari has written a treatise concerning coffee, wherein he argues for its law-fulness. Vide D'Herbel., art. Cahvah.

3 Vide Le Traité Historique de l'Origine et du Progrè s du Café, à la fin du Voy. de l'Arabie Heur. de la Roque.

4 Reland, Dissert. Miscell., t. 2, p. 280. Vide Chardin, Voy. de Perse, t. 2, pp.14 and 66.


because they intoxicate and disturb the understanding as wine does, and in a more extraordinary manner: yet these drugs are now commonly taken in the East; * but they who are addicted to them are generally looked upon as debauchees.1

The reason why wine-drinking was prohibited.

Several stories have been told as the occasion of Muhammad's prohibiting the drinking of wine2 but the true reasons are given in the Quran, viz., because the ill qualities of that liquor surpass its good ones, the common effects thereof being quarrels and disturbances in company, and neglect, or at least indecencies, in the performance of religious duties.3 For these reasons it was that the priests were, by the Levitical law, forbidden to drink wine or strong drink when they entered the tabernacle,4 and that the Nazarites,5 and Rechabites,6 and many pious persons among the Jews and primitive Christians, wholly abstained therefrom; nay, some of the latter went so far as to condemn the use of wine as sinful.7 But Muhammad is said to have had a nearer example than any of these, in the more devout persons of his own tribe.8

Lots and games of chance forbidden.

Gaming is prohibited by the Quran9 in the same passages, and for the same reasons, as wine. The word al maisar which is there used, signifies a particular manner of casting lots by arrows, much practised by the pagan Arabs, and performed in the following manner. A young camel being bought and killed, and divided into ten or twenty-eight parts, the persons who cast lots for them, to the number of seven, met for that purpose; and eleven arrows were provided, without heads or feathers, seven of

* Opium is very commonly used by Muslims in India. E.M.W

1 Vide Chardin, ibid., p.68, &C. &0 and D'Herbel., p. 200.

2 Vide Prid., Life of Mah, p.82, &c.; Busbeq., Epist. 3, p. 255; Mandeville's Travels, p.170.

3 Quran, c. 2, v. 218; c.5, v.92; and c.4, V.42 and note. See Prov. xxiii. 29, &c.

4 Levit. x. 9.

5 Numb. vi. 2. 271.

6 Jerem. xxxv. 5, &c.

7 This was the heresy of those called Encratitae, and Aquarij Khauf, a Magian heretic, also declared wine unlawful; but this was after Muhammad's time. Hyde, De Rel. Vet. Pers., p. 300.

8 Vide Roland, De Rel. Moh., p. 271.

9 Cap. 2, v. 218; c.5, v. 92.


which were marked, the first with one notch, the second with two, and so on, and the other four had no mark at all.1 These arrows were put promiscuously into a bag, and then drawn by an indifferent person, who had another near him to receive them, and to see he acted fairly; those to whom the marked arrows fell won shares in proportion to their lot, and those to whom the blanks fell were entitled to no part of the camel at all, but were obliged to pay the full price of it. The winners, however, tasted not of the flesh, any more than the losers, but the whole was distributed among the poor; and this they did out of pride and ostentation, it being reckoned a shame for a man to stand out, and not venture his money on such an occasion.2 This custom, therefore, though it was of some use to the poor and diversion to the rich, was forbidden by Muhammad,3 as the source of great inconveniences, by occasioning quarrels and heart-burnings, which arose from the winners insulting of those who lost.

Chess allowable under restrictions.

Under the name of lots the commentators agree that all other games whatsoever, which are subject to hazard or chance, are comprehended and forbidden, as dice, cards, tables, &c. And they are reckoned so ill in themselves, that the testimony of him who plays at them is by the more rigid judged to be of no validity in a court of justice. Chess is almost the only game which the Muhammadan doctors allow to be lawful (though it has been a doubt with some),4 because it depends wholly on skill and management, and not at all on chance: but then it is allowed under certain restrictions, viz., that it be no hindrance to the regular performance of their devotions, and that no money or other thing be played for or betted; which last the Turks, being Sunnis, religiously observe,

1 Some writers, al Zamakh. and al Shirazi, mention but three blank arrows.

2 Auctores Nodhm al dorr, et Nothr al dorr, al Zamakh. al Firauzabadi, al Shirazi in Orat. al Hariri, al Baidhawi, &C Vide Poc. Spec., p.324, &C.

3 Quran, c. 5, v. 4.

4 Vide Hyde, De Ludis Oriental. in Proleg. ad Shahiludium.


but the Persians and Moguls do not.1 But what Muhammad is supposed chiefly to have disliked in the game of chess was the carved pieces, or men, with which the pagan Arabs played? being little figures of men, elephants, horses, and dromedaries 2 and these are thought, by some commentators, to be truly meant by the images prohibited in one of the passages of the Quran 3 quoted above. That the Arabs in Muhammad's time actually used such images for chessmen appears from what is related in the Sunnat of Ali, who, passing accidentally by some who were playing at chess, asked, "What images they were which they were so intent upon?"4 for they were perfectly new to him, that game having been but very lately introduced into Arabia, and not long before into Persia, whither it was first brought from India in the reign of Khusru Anushirwan.5 Hence the Muhammadan doctors infer that the game was disapproved only for the sake of the images: wherefore the Sunnis always play with plain pieces of wood or ivory; but the Persians and Indians, who are not so scrupulous, continue to make use of the carved ones.6 *

The Muhammadans comply with the prohibition of gaming much better than they do with that of wine; for though the common people, among the Turks more frequently, and the Persians more rarely, are addicted to play, yet the better sort are seldom guilty of it.7

Gaming, at least to excess, has been forbidden in all well-ordered states. Gaming-houses were reckoned scandalous places among the Greeks, and a gamester is declared by Aristotle 8 to be no better than a thief: the Roman senate made very severe laws against playing at games of hazard,9 except only during the Saturnalia; though the

* This statement is more than doubtful. E.M.W.

1 Vide Hyde, De Ludis Oriental. in Proleg., and Shahiludium.

2 Vide eundem, ibid., and in Hist. Shahiludium, p. 135, &c.

3 Cap. 5, v.92.

4 Sukaikar al Dimishki, and Auctor libri al Mustatraf, apud Hyde, ubi sup., p. 8.

5 Khondemir. apud eund. ibid., p.41. · Vide Hyde, ubi sup., p.9.

6 Vide Hyde, ubi sup., p. 9.

7 Vide eundem, in Proleg. and Chardin, Voy. de Perse, t. 2, p.46.

8 Lib. iv. ad Nicom.

9 Vide Horat., l. 3. Carm. Od. 24.


people played often at other times, notwithstanding the prohibition: the civil law forbade all pernicious games,1 and though the laity were, in some cases, permitted to play for money, provided they kept within reasonable bounds, yet the clergy were forbidden to play at tables (which is a game of hazard), or even to look on while others played.2 Accursius, indeed, is of opinion they may play at chess, notwithstanding that law, because it is a game not subject to chance,3 and being but newly invented in the time of Justinian, was not then known in the Western parts. However, the monks for some time were not allowed even chess. 4

As to the Jews, Muhammad's chief guides, they also highly disapprove gaming: gamesters being severely censured in the Talmud, and their testimony declared invalid.5

Divining by arrows forbidden

Another practice of the idolatrous Arabs forbidden also in one of the above-mentioned passages,6 was that of divining by arrows. The arrows used by them for this purpose were like those with which they cast lots, being without heads or feathers, and were kept in the temple of some idol, in whose presence they were consulted. Seven such arrows were kept at the temple of Makkah;7 but generally in divination they made use of three only, on one of which was written, "My LORD hath commanded me" on another, "My LORD hath forbidden me," and the third was blank. If the first was drawn, they looked on it as an approbation of the enterprise in question; if the second, they made a contrary conclusion; but if the third happened to be drawn, they mixed them and drew

1 ff. de Aleatonbus Novell. Just. 123, &C. Vide Hyde, ubi sup. in Hist. Aleae, p.119.

2 Authent. interdicimus, C. de epis copis.

3 In Com. ad Legem Praed.

4 Du Fresne, in Gloss.

5 Bava Mesia, 84, 1; Rosh hashana and Sanhedr. 24, 2. Vide etiam Maimon. in Tract. Gezila. Among the modern civilians, Mascardus thought common gamesters were not to be admitted as witnesses, being infamous persons. Vide Hyde, ubi sup. in Proleg. et in Hist. Aleae, § 3.

6 Quran c. 5, v. 4.

7 See ante, p. 42.


over again, till a decisive answer was given by one of the others. These divining arrows were generally consulted before anything of moment was undertaken; as when a man was about to marry, or about to go a journey, or the like.1 This superstitious practice of divining by arrows was used by the ancient Greeks,2 and other nations; and particularly mentioned in Scripture,3 where it is said that "the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination; he made his arrows bright" (or, according to the version of the Vulgate, which seems preferable in this place, "he mixed together or shook the arrows"), "he consulted with images," &c.; the commentary of St. Jerome on which passage wonderfully agrees with what we are told of the aforesaid custom of the old Arabs "He shall stand," says he, "in the highway, and consult the oracle after the manner of his nation, that he may cast arrows into a quiver, and mix them together, being written upon or marked with the names of each people, that he may see whose arrow will come forth, and which city he ought first to attack."4

Laws concerning meats.

A distinction of meats was so generally used by the Eastern nations, that it is no wonder that Muhammad made some regulations in that matter. The Quran, therefore, prohibits the eating of blood, and swine's flesh, and whatever dies of itself, or is slain in the name or in honor of any idol, or is strangled, or killed by a blow, or a fall, or by any other beast.5 In which particulars Muhammad seems chiefly to have imitated the Jews, by whose law, as is well known, all those things are forbidden; but he allowed some things to be eaten which Moses did not,6 as camels' flesh 7 in particular. In cases of necessity, how-

1 Ibn al Athir, al Zamakh, and al Baid. In Quran, c. 5, v. 4 Al Mustatraf, &c Vide Poc. Spec., p. 327,&c., and D'Herbel.,Bibl. Orient., art. Kodah.

2 Vide Potter, Antiq. of Greece, vol 1. p. 334.

3 Ezek. xxi. 21.

4 Vide Poc. Spec., p. 329, &C.

5 Cap. 2, v.174; c. 5, V.4; c.6, v.146; and c. 16, v. 116.

6 Levit. xi. 4.

7 See Quran, c.3, vv. 49 and 93, and c. 6, v. 146.


ever, where a man may be in danger of starving, he is allowed by the Muhammadan law to eat any of the said prohibited kinds of food 1 and the Jewish doctors grant the same liberty in the same case.2 Though the aversion to blood and what dies of itself may seem natural, yet some of the pagan Arabs used to eat both: of their eating of the latter some instances will be given hereafter; and as to the former, it is said they used to pour blood, which they sometimes drew from a live camel, into a gut, and then broiled it in the fire, or boiled it, and ate it:3 this food they called Muswadd, from Aswad, which signifies black; the same nearly resembling our black puddings in name as well as composition.4 The eating of meat offered to idols I take to be commonly practised by all idolaters, being looked on as a sort of communion in their worship, and for that reason esteemed by Christians, if not absolutely unlawful, yet as what may be the occasion of great scandal;5 but the Arabs were particularly superstitious in this matter, killing what they ate on stones erected on purpose around the Kaabah, or near their own houses, and calling, at the same time, on the name of some idol.6 Swine's flesh, indeed, the old Arabs seem not to have eaten; and their prophet, in prohibiting the same, appears to have only confirmed the common aversion of the nation. Foreign writers tell us that the Arabs wholly abstained from swine's flesh,7 thinking it unlawful to feed thereon,8 and that very few, if any, of those animals are found in their country, because it produces not proper food for them;9 which has made one writer imagine that if a hog were carried thither, it would immediately die.10

1 Quran, c. 5, v. 2, &C and in the other passages last quoted.

2 Vide Maimon. in Halachoth Melachim, c. 8, § i., &C.

3 Nothr al dorr, al Firauz., al Zamakh., and al Baid.

4 Poc. Spec., p.320.

5 Compare Acts xv. 29 with I Cor. viii 4, &C

6 See the fifth chapter of the Quran, v.4, and the notes there.

7 Solin. de Arab., c. 33.

8 Hieronym. in Jovin. 1.2, C. 6.

9 Idem, ibid.

10 Solinus, ubi supra.


Of usury and certain superstitious customs

In the prohibition of usury.1 I presume Muhammad also followed the Jews, who are strictly forbidden by their law to exercise it among one another, though they are so infamously guilty of it in their dealing with those of a different religion; but I do not find the prophet of the Arabs has made any distinction in this matter.

Several superstitious customs relating to cattle, which seem to have been peculiar to the pagan Arabs, were also abolished by Muhammad. The Quran,2 mentions four names by them given to certain camels or sheep, which for some particular reasons were left at free liberty, and were not made use of as other cattle of the same kind. These names are Bahira, Saiba, Wasfia, and Hami: of each whereof in their order.

The customs relating to the Bahira, Saiba, Wasila, and Hami explained.

As to the first, it is said that when a she-camel or a sheep had borne young ten times, they used to slit her ear, and turn her loose to feed at full liberty; and when she died, her flesh was eaten by the men only, the women being forbidden to eat thereof: and such a camel or sheep, from the slitting of her ear, they called Bahira. Or the Bahira was a she-camel, which was turned loose to feed, and whose fifth young one, if it proved a male, was killed and eaten by men and women promiscuously; but if it proved a female, had its ear slit, and was dismissed to free pasture, none being permitted to make use of its flesh or milk, or to ride on it; though the women were allowed to eat the flesh of it when it died: or it was the male young of the Saiba, which was used in the same manner as its dam; or else an ewe, which had yeaned five times.3 These, however, are not all the opinions concerning the Bahira; for some suppose that name was given to a she-camel, which, after having brought forth young five times, if the last was a male, had her ear slit, as a mark thereof, and was let go loose to feed, none driving her from pasture or water, nor using her for

1 Quran, c. 2, v. 275.

2 Cap. 5, v. 102.

3 Al Firauzabadi.


carriage 1 and others tell us that when a camel had newly brought forth, they used to slit the ear of her young one, saying, "O GOD, if it live, it shall be for our use, but if it die, it shall be deemed rightly slain;" and when it died they ate it.2

Saiba signifies a she-camel turned loose to go where she will. And this was done on various accounts: as when she had brought forth females ten times together; or in satisfaction of a vow; or when a man had recovered from sickness, or returned safe from a journey, or his camel had escaped some signal danger either in battle or other-wise. A camel so turned loose was declared to be Sa'iba, and, as a mark of it, one of the vertebrate or bones was taken out of her back, after which none might drive her from pasture or water, or ride on her.3 Some say that the Saiba, when she had ten times together brought forth females, was suffered to go at liberty, none being allowed to ride on her, and that her milk was not to be drank by any but her young one, or a guest, till she died; and then her flesh was eaten by men as well as women, and her last female young one had her ear slit, and was called Bahi'ra, and turned loose as her dam had been.4

This appellation, however, was not so strictly proper to female camels, but that it was given to the male when his young one had begotten another young one :5 nay, a servant set at liberty and dismissed by his master was also called Saiba 6 and some are of opinion that the word denotes an animal which the Arabs used to turn loose in honour of their idols, allowing none to make use of them thereafter, except women only.7

Wasfia is, by one author,8 explained to signify a she-camel which had brought forth ten times, or an ewe which

1 Al Zamakh., al Baidhawi, al Mustatraf.

2 Ibn al Athir.

3 Al Firauzab., al Zamakakh.

4 Al Jawhari,Ibn al Athir.

5 Al Firauz.

6 Idem, al Jawhari, &C.

7 Nothr al dorr and Nodlim al dorr.

8 Al Firauz.


had yeaned seven times, and every time twins; and if the seventh time she brought forth a male and a female, they said, "Wusilat akhaha," i.e., "She is joined," or, "was brought forth with her brother," after which none might drink the dam's milk, except men only; and she was used as the Saiba. Or Wasila was particularly meant of sheep; as when an ewe brought forth a female, they took it to themselves, but when she brought forth a male, they consecrated it to their gods, but if both a male and a female, they said, "She is joined to her brother," and did not sacrifice that male to their gods: or Wasila was an ewe which brought forth first a male and then a female, on which account, or because she followed her brother, the male was not killed; but if she brought forth a male only, they said, "Let this be an offering to our gods.1 Another 2 writes, that if an ewe brought forth twins seven times together, and the eighth time a male, they sacrificed that male to their gods; but if the eighth time she brought both a male and a female, they used to say, "She is joined to her brother," and for the female's sake they spared the male, and permitted not the dam's milk to be drunk by women. A third writer tells us, that Wasila was an ewe, which having yeaned seven times, if that which she brought forth the seventh time was a male,' they sacrificed it, but if a female, it was suffered to go loose, and was made use of by women only; and if the seventh time she brought forth both a male and a female, they held them both to be sacred, so that men only were allowed to make any use of them, or to drink the milk of the female: and a fourth 3 describes it to be an ewe which brought forth ten females at five births one after another, i.e., every time twins, and whatever she brought forth afterwards was allowed to men, and not to women, &C.

Ha'mi was a male camel used for a stallion, which, if the females had conceived ten times by him, was afterwards

1 Al Firauz., al Zamakh.

2Al Jawhari.

3 Al Mutarrezi.


freed from labour, and let go loose, none driving him from pasture or from water; nor was any allowed to receive the least benefit from him, not even to shear his hair.1

These things were observed by the old Arabs in honour of their false gods,

1 and as part of the worship which they paid them, and were ascribed to the divine institution; but are all condemned in the Quran, and declared to be impious superstitions.2

Muhammad prohibits infanticide

The law of Muhammad also put a stop to the inhuman custom, which had been long practised by the pagan Arabs, of burying their daughters alive, lest they should be reduced to poverty by providing for them, or else to avoid the displeasure and disgrace which would follow, if they should happen to be made captives, or to become scandalous by their behaviour;4 the birth of a daughter being, for these reasons, reckoned a great misfortune,5 and the death of one as a great happiness.6 The manner of their doing this is differently related: some say that when an Arab had a daughter born, if he intended to bring her up, he sent her, clothed in a garment of wool or hair, to keep camels or sheep in the desert; but if he designed to put her to death, he let her live till she became six years old, and then said to her mother, "Perfume her, and adorn her, that I may carry her to her mothers;" which being done, the father led her to a well or pit dug for that purpose, and having bid her to look down into it, pushed her in headlong, as he stood behind her, and then filling up the pit, levelled it with the rest of the ground; but others say, that when a woman was ready to fall in labour, they dug a pit, on the brink whereof she was to be delivered, and if the child happened to be a daughter, they threw it into the pit, but if a son, they saved it alive.7

1 Al Firauz., al Jawhari.

2 Jalal in Quran.

3 Quran c. 5, v. 102, and c. 6 v.142-145. Vide Poc. Spec., pp. 330-334.

4 Al Baidhawi, al Zamakh., al Mustatraf.

5 See Quran, c. 16, vv. 60, 61.

6 Al Maidani.

7 Al Zamakh.


This custom, though not observed by all the Arabs in general, was yet very common among several of their tribes, and particularly those of Quraish and Kinda; the former using to bury their daughters alive in Mount Abu Dalama, near Makkah.1 In the time of ignorance, while they used this method to get rid of their daughters, Sasaa, grand-father to the celebrated poet al Farazdak, frequently redeemed female children from death, giving for every one two she-camels big with young, and a he-camel; and hereto al Farazdak alluded when, vaunting himself before one of the Khalifalis of the family of Omayyah, he said, "I am the son of the giver of life to the dead;" for which expression being censured, he excused himself by alleging the following words of the Quran,2 "He who saveth a soul alive, shall be as if he had saved the lives of all mankind."3 The Arabs, in thus murdering of their children, were far from being singular; the practice of exposing infants and putting them to death being so common among the ancients, that it is remarked as a thing very extraordinary in the Egyptians, that they brought up all their children;' and by the laws of Lycurgus 4 no child was allowed to be brought up without the approbation of public officers. At this day, it is said, in China, the poorer sort of people frequently put their children, the females especially, to death with impunity.5

* The same practice was common among several castes of the Hindus. It is worthy of note that the motives for the act were the same as those which influenced the heathen Arabs. E.M.W.

1 Al Mustatraf.

2 Cap. 5, v.35.

3 Al Mustatraf. Vide Ibn Khaliqan in Vita al Farazdak, and Poc. Spec., p.334.

4 Strabo, l 17. Vide Diodor. Sic., l. 1, c. 80.

5 Vide Plutarch, in Lycurgo.

6 Vide Pufendorf, do Jure Nat. et Gent., 1. 6, c. 7, § 6. The Grecians also treated daughters especially in this manner-whence that saying of Posidippus:

"A man, tho' poor will not expose his son;
But if he's rich, will scarce preserve his daughter."
See Potter's Antiq. of Greece, vol. ii p.333.


This wicked practice is condemned by the Quran in several passages;1 one of which, as some commentators 2 judge, may also condemn another custom of the Arabians, altogether as wicked, and as common among other nations of old, viz., the sacrificing of their children to their idols; as was frequently done in particular, in satisfaction of a vow they used to make, that if they had a certain number of sons born, they would offer one of them in sacrifice.

Several other superstitious customs were likewise abrogated by Muhammad, but the same being of less moment, and not particularly mentioned in the Quran, or having been occasionally taken notice of elsewhere, I shall say nothing of them in this place.

1 Cap. 6, vv. 137 and 151; c. 16, vv. 60, 61; and c. 17, v.33. See also chap. 81, v. 8.

2 Al Zamakh., al Baid.

Table of Contents
Answering Islam Home Page