K.C.M.G., F.R.G.S., &c., &c., &c.
EDITED BY HIS WIFE, ISABEL BURTON.
“Our notions of Mecca must be drawn from the Arabians; as no unbeliever
is permitted to enter the city, our travellers are silent.”—Gibbon, chap.
IN TWO VOLUMES
Dark and the Desert and Destriers me ken,
And the Glaive and the Joust, and Paper and Pen.
AL-MADINAH AND MECCAH.
THE PEOPLE OF AL-MADINAH.
AL-MADINAH contains but few families descended from the Prophet’s
Auxiliaries. I heard only of four whose genealogy is undoubted. These
1. The Bayt al-Ansari, or descendants of Abu Ayyub, a most noble race
whose tree ramifies through a space of fifteen hundred years. They keep
the keys of the Kuba Mosque, and are Imams in the Harim, but the family
is no longer wealthy or powerful.
2. The Bayt Abu Jud: they supply the Harim with Imams and
Mu’ezzins.[FN#l] I was told that there are now but two surviving members
of this family, a boy and a girl.
3. The Bayt al-Sha’ab, a numerous race. Some of the members travel
professionally, others trade, and others are employed in the Harim.
4. The Bayt al-Karrani, who are mostly engaged in commerce.
There is also a race called Al-Nakhawilah,[FN#2] who,
[p.2]according to some, are descendants of the Ansar, whilst others
derive them from Yazid, the son of Mu’awiyah: the latter opinion is
improbable, as the Caliph in question was a mortal foe to Ali’s family,
which is inordinately venerated by these people. As far as I could
ascertain, they abuse the Shaykhayn (Abu Bakr and Omar): all my
informants agreed upon this point, but none could tell me why they
neglected to bedevil Osman, the third object of hatred to the Shi’ah
persuasion. They are numerous and warlike, yet they are despised by the
townspeople, because they openly profess heresy, and are moreover of
humble degree. They have their own priests and instructors, although
subject to the orthodox Kazi; marry in their own sect, are confined to
low offices, such as slaughtering animals, sweeping, and gardening, and
are not allowed to enter the Harim during life, or to be carried to it
after death. Their corpses are taken down an outer street called the
Darb al-Janazah—Road of Biers—to their own cemetery near Al-Bakia. They
dress and speak Arabic, like the townspeople; but the Arabs pretend to
distinguish them by a peculiar look denoting their degradation: it is
doubtless the mistake of effect for cause, about all such
“Tribes of the wandering foot and weary breast.”
number of reports are current about the horrid
[p.3]customs of these people, and their community of women[FN#3] with
the Persian pilgrims who pass through the town.