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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages, by Thomas Keightley, [1837], at

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Origin of the Khalifat--The first Khalifs--Extent of the Arabian Empire--Schism among the Mohammedans--Soonees and Sheähs--Sects of the latter--The Keissanee--The Zeidites--The Ghoollat--The Imamee--Sects of the Imamee--Their political Character--The Carmathites--Origin of the Fatimite Khalifs--Secret Society at Cairo--Doctrines taught in it--Its Decline.

THE civil and ecclesiastical dignities were united in the person of Mohammed. As Emir (prince) he administered justice and led his followers to battle; as Imam (director) he on every Friday (the Mohammedan sabbath) taught the principles and duties of religion from his pulpit. Though his wives were numerous, the Prophet had no male issue surviving at the time when he felt the approaches of death; but his daughter Fatima was married to his cousin Ali, his early and faithful disciple, and it was naturally to be expected that the expiring voice of the Prophet would nominate him as his Khalif (successor) over the followers of his faith. But Ayesha, the daughter of Aboo Bekr, Mohammed's youthful and best beloved wife, was vehemently hostile to the son of Aboo Talib, and she may have exerted all the influence of a revengeful woman over the mind of the dying Prophet. Or perhaps Mohammed, like Alexander, perplexed with the extent of dominion to which he had attained, and aware that only a vigour of character similar to his own would avail to retain and enlarge it, and, it may be, thinking himself answerable

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to God for the choice he should make, deemed it the safest course to leave the matter to the free decision of his surviving followers. His appointing Aboo Bekr, a few days before his death, to officiate in his pulpit, might seem to indicate an intention of conferring the khalifat on him; and he is said to have at one time declared that the strength of character displayed by his distinguished follower, Omar, evinced his possession of the virtues of a prophet and a khalif. Tradition records no equally strong declaration respecting the mild and virtuous Ali.

At all events the Prophet expired without having named a successor, and the choice devolving on his companions dissension was ready to break out, when Omar, abandoning his own claims, gave his voice for Aboo Bekr. All opposition was thus silenced, and the father of Ayesha reigned for two years over the faithful. Ali at first refused obedience, but he finally acknowledged the successor of the Prophet. When dying, Aboo Bekr bequeathed the sceptre to Omar, as the worthiest, and when, twelve years afterwards, Omar perished by the dagger of an assassin, six electors conferred the vacant dignity on Othman, who had been the secretary of the Prophet. Age having enfeebled the powers of Othman, the reins of authority were slackened, and a spirit of discord pervaded all Arabia, illustrative of the Prophet's declaration of vigour being essential to a khalif. A numerous body of rebels besieged the aged Othman in Medina, and he was slain, holding the Koran in his lap, by a band of murderers, headed by the brother of Ayesha, who, the firebrand of Islam, it is probable had been secretly active in exciting the rebellion.

The popular choice now fell upon Ali, but the implacable Ayesha stimulated to revolt against his authority

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two powerful Arab chiefs, named Telha and Zobeir, who raised their standards in the province of Arabian Irak. Ayesha, mounted on a camel, appeared in the thickest of the battle, in which the rebel chiefs were defeated and slain. The generous Ali sent her to dwell at the tomb of the Prophet, where she passed in tranquillity the remainder of her days. The khalif himself was less fortunate. Moawiya, the Governor of Syria, son of Aboo Sofian, the most violent of the opponents of the Prophet, assumed the office of the avenger of Othman, whose death he charged on Ali and his party, and, declaring himself to be the rightful khalif, roused Syria to arms against the Prophet's son-in-law. In the war success was on the side of Ali, till the superstition of his troops obliged him to agree to a treaty; and shortly afterwards he was murdered by a fanatic in the mosk of Coofa. His son Hassan was induced by Moawiya to resign his claims and retire to the city of Medina; but his more high-spirited brother, Hussein, took arms against the khalif Yezid, the son of Moawiya; and the narrative of his death is one of the most pathetic and best related incidents of Oriental history *. The sisters and children of Hussein were spared by the clemency of the victorious Yezid, and from them descend a numerous race, glorying in the blood of Ali and the Prophet.

The Arabian empire was now of immense extent. Egypt, Syria, and Persia had been conquered in the reign of Omar. Under the first khalifs of the dynasty of the Ommiades (so called from Ommiyah, the great-grandfather of Moawiya), the conquest of Africa and Spain was achieved, and the later princes of this family ruled over the most extensive empire of the world.

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The great schism of the Mohammedan church (we must be permitted to employ this term, the only one our language affords) commences with the accession of the house of Ommiyah. The Mohammedans have, as is generally known, been from that time to the present day divided into two great sects, the Soonees and the Sheähs, the orthodox and the dissenters, as we might venture to call them, whose opposite doctrines, like those of the Catholics and the Protestants of the Christian church, are each the established faith of great and independent nations. The Ottoman and the Usbeg Turks hold the Soonee faith; the Persians are violent Sheähs; and national and religious animosity concur in making them the determined and inveterate foes of each other.

The Soonees hold that the first four khalifs were all legitimate successors of the Prophet; but as their order was determined by their degree of sanctity, they assign the lowest rank to Ali. The Sheähs, on the contrary, maintain that the dignity of the Prophet rightfully descended to the son of his uncle and the husband of his daughter. They therefore regard Aboo Bekr, Omar, and Othman, as usurpers, and curse and revile their memory, more especially that of the rigid Omar, whose murderer they venerate as a saint. It must be steadily kept in mind, in every discussion respecting the Mohammedan religion, that Mohammed and his successors succeeded in establishing what the lofty and capacious mind of Gregory VII. attempted in vain--the union of the civil and ecclesiastical powers in the same person. Unlike the schisms of the eastern and western, of the Catholic and Protestant churches, which originated in difference of opinion on points of discipline or matters of doctrine, that of the Mohammedans arose solely from ambition and the struggle for temporal power. The sceptre of the greatest empire of

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the world was to be the reward of the party who could gain the greatest number of believers in his right to grasp the staff and ascend the pulpit of the Prophet of God. Afterwards, when the learning of the Greeks and the Persians became familiar to the Arabs, theological and metaphysical niceties and distinctions were introduced, and the two great stems of religion threw out numerous sectarian branches. The Soonees are divided into four main sects, all of which are, however, regarded as orthodox, for they agree in the main points, though they differ in subordinate ones. The division of the Sheähs is also into four sects, the point of agreement being the assertion of the right of Ali and his descendants to the imamat, or supreme ecclesiastical dignity; the point of difference being the nature of the proof on which his rights are founded, and the order of succession among his descendants. These four sects and their opinions are as follows:--

I. The first and most innocuous of the sects which maintained the rights of the family of Ali were the Keissanee, so named from Keissan, one of his freedmen. These, who were subdivided into several branches, held that Ali's rights descended, not to Hassan or Hussein, but to their brother, Mohammed-ben-Hanfee. One of these branch-sects maintained that the imamat remained * in the person of this Mohammed, who had never died, but had since appeared, from time to time, on earth, under various names. Another branch, named the Hashemites, held that the imamat descended from Mohammed-ben-Hanfee to his son Aboo-Hashem, who transmitted it to Mohammed, of the family of Abbas, from whom it descended to Saffah, the founder of the Abbasside dynasty of khalifa . It is quite evident

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that the object of this sect was to give a colour to the claims of the family of Abbas, who stigmatized the family of Ommiyah as usurpers, and insisted that the khalifat belonged of right to themselves. Aboo-Moslem, the great general who first gave dominion to the family of Abbas, was a real or pretended maintainer of the tenets of this sect, the only branch, by the way, of the Sheähs which supported the house of Abbas.

II. A second branch of the Sheähs was named Zeidites. These held that the imamat descended through Hassan and Hussein to Zein-al-Abedeen, the son of this last, and thence passed to Zeid (whence their name), the son of Zein; whereas most other Sheähs regarded Mohammed Bakir, the brother of Zeid, as the lawful imam. The Zeidites differed from the other Sheähs in acknowledging the three first khalifs to have been legitimate successors of the Prophet. Edris, who wrested a part of Africa from the Abbasside khalifs, and founded the kingdom of Fez, was a real or pretended descendant of Zeid.

III. The Ghoollat (Ultras), so named from the extravagance of their doctrines, which, passing all bounds of common sense, were held in equal abomination by the other Sheähs and by the Soonees. This sect is said to have existed as early as the time of Ali himself, who is related to have burnt some of them on account of their impious and extravagant

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opinions. They held, as we are told, that there was but one imam, and they ascribed the qualities of divinity to Ali. Some maintained that there were two natures (the divine and the human) in him, others that the last alone was his. Some again said that this perfect nature of Ali passed by transmigration through his descendants, and would continue so to do till the end of all things; others that the transmission stopped with Mohammed Bakir, the son of Zein-al-Ahedeen, who still abode on earth, but unseen, like Khizer, the Guardian of the Well of Life, according to the beautiful eastern legend *. Others, still more bold, denied the transmission, and asserted that the divine Ali sat enthroned in the clouds, where the thunder was the voice and the lightning the scourge wherewith he terrified and chastised the wicked. This sect presents the first (though a very early) instance of the introduction into Islam of that mysticism which appears to have had its original

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birth-place in the dreamy groves of India. As a political party the Ghoollat never seem to have been formidable.

IV. Such, however, was not the case with the Imamee, the most dangerous enemies of the house of Abbas. Agreeing with the Ghoollat in the doctrine of an invisible imam, they maintained that there had been a series of visible imams antecedent to him, who had vanished. One branch of this sect (thence called the Seveners--Sebiïn) closed the series with Ismaïl, the grandson of Mohammed Bakir, the seventh imam, reckoning Ali himself the first. These were also called Ismaïlites, from Ismaïl. The other branch, called Imamites, continued the series from Ismaïl, through his brother Moosa Casim, down to Askeree, the twelfth imam. These were hence called the Twelvers (Esnaashree). They believed that the imam Askeree had vanished in a cavern at Hilla, on the banks of the Euphrates, where he would remain invisible till the end of the world, when he would again appear under the name of the Guide (Mehdee) to lead mankind into the truth. The Imamee, wherever they might stop in the series of the visible imams, saw that, for their political purposes, it was necessary to acknowledge a kind of locum tenentes imams; but, while the Zeidites, who agreed with them in this point, required in these princes the royal virtues of valour, generosity, justice, knowledge, the Imamee declared themselves satisfied if they possessed the saintly ones of the practice of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. Hence artful and ambitious men could set up any puppet who was said to be descended from the last of the visible imams, and aspire to govern the Mohammedan world in his name.

The Twelvers were very near obtaining possession of the khalifat in the time of the first Abbassides;

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for the celebrated Haroon Er-Rasheed's son, Al-Mamoon, the eighth khalif of that house, moved either by the strength or preponderance which the Sheäh party had arrived at, or, as the eastern historians tell us, yielding to the suggestions of his vizir, who was devoted to that sect, named Ali Riza, the eighth imam, to be his successor on the throne. He even laid aside the black habiliments peculiar to his family, and wore green, the colour of Ali and the Prophet. But the family of Abbas, which now numbered 30,000 persons, refused their assent to this renunciation of the rights of their line. They rose in arms, and proclaimed as khalif Al-Mamoon's uncle Ibrahim. The obnoxious vizir perished, and the opportune death of Ali Riza (by poison, as was said) relieved the son of Haroon Er-Rasheed from embarrassment. Ali Riza was interred at Meshed, in the province of Khorasan; and his tomb is, to the present day, a place of pilgrimage for devout Persians *.

The Ismaïlites were more successful in their attempts at obtaining temporal power; and, as we shall presently see, a considerable portion of their dominions was wrested from the house of Abbas.

Religion has, in all ages, and in all parts of the world, been made the mask of ambition, for which its powerful influence over the minds of the ignorant so well qualifies it. But the political influence of religion among the calmer and more reasoning nations of Europe is slight compared with its power over the more ardent and susceptible natives of Asia. Owing to the effects of this principle the despotism of the East has never been of that still, undisturbed nature which we might suppose to be its character. To say nothing of the bloody wars and massacres which have taken place under the pretext of religion

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in the countries from Japan to the Indus, the Mohammedan portion of the East has been, almost without ceasing, the theatre of sanguinary dramas, where ambition, under the disguise of religion, sought for empire; and our own days have seen, in the case of the Wahabees, a bold though unsuccessful attempt of fanaticism to achieve a revolution in a part of the Ottoman empire. It was this union of religion with policy which placed the Suffavee family on the throne of Persia in the fifteenth century; and it was this also which, at a much earlier period, established the dominion of the Fatimite khalifs of Egypt. The progress of this last event is thus traced by oriental historians *:--

The encouragement given to literature and science by the enlightened Al-Mamoon had diffused a degree of boldness of speculation and inquiry hitherto unknown in the empire of the Arabs. The subtile philosophy of the Greeks was now brought into contact with the sublime but corrupted theology of the Persians, and the mysticism of India secretly mingled itself with the mass of knowledge. We are not, perhaps, to give credit to the assertion of the Arab historian that it was the secret and settled plan of the Persians to undermine and corrupt the religion, and thus sap the empire, of those who had overcome them in the field; but it is not a little remarkable that, as the transformation of the Mosaic religion into Judaism may be traced to Persia, and as the same country sent forth the monstrous opinions which corrupted the simplicity of the Gospel, so it is in Persia that we find the origin of most of the sects which have sprung up in Islam. Without agreeing with those who would derive all knowledge from India, it may be held not improbable that the

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intricate metaphysics and mysticism of that country have been the source of much of the corruption of the various religions which have prevailed in Cis-Indian Asia. It is at least remarkable that the north-east of Persia, the part nearest to India, has been the place where many of the impostors who pretended to intercourse with the Deity made their appearance. It was here that Mani (Manes), the head of the Manichæans, displayed his arts, and it was in Khorasan (Sun-land) that Hakem, who gave himself out for an incarnation of the Deity, raised the standard of revolt against the house of Abbas. But, be this as it may, on surveying the early centuries of Islam, we may ob- serve that all the rebellions which agitated the empire of the khalifs arose from a union of the claims of the family of Ali with the philosophical doctrines current in Persia.

We are told that, in the ninth century of the Christian era, Abdallah, a man of Persian lineage, residing at Ahwaz, in the south of Persia, conceived the design of overturning the empire of the khalifs by secretly introducing into Islam a system of atheism and impiety. Not to shock deep-rooted prejudices in favour of the established religion and government, he resolved to communicate his doctrines gradually, and he fixed on the mystic number seven as that of the degrees through which his disciples should pass to the grand revelation of the vanity of all religions and the indifference of all actions. The political cloak of his system was the assertion of the claims of the descendants of Mohammed, the son of Ismaïl, to the imamat, and his missionaries (dais) engaged with activity in the task of making proselytes throughout the empire of the khalifs. Abdallah afterwards removed to Syria, where he died. His son and

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grandsons followed up his plans, and in their time a convert was made who speedily brought the system into active operation *.

The name of this person was Carmath, a native of the district of Koofa, and from him the sect was called Carmathites. He made great alterations in the original system of Abdallah; and as the sect was now grown numerous and powerful, he resolved to venture on putting the claims of the descendants of Ismaïl to the test of the sword. He maintained that the indefeasible right to earthly dominion lay with what he styled the imam Maässoom (spotless), a sort of ideal of a perfect prince, like the wise man of the Stoics; consequently all the reigning princes were usurpers, by reason of their vices and imperfections; and the warriors of the perfect prince were to precipitate them all, without distinction, from their thrones. Carmath also taught his disciples to understand the precepts and observances of Islam in a figurative sense. Prayer signified obedience to the imam Maässoom, alms-giving was paying the tithe due to him (that is, augmenting the funds of the society), fasting was keeping the political secrets relating to the imam and his service. It was not the tenseel, or outward word of the Koran, which was to be attended to; the taweel, or exposition, was alone worthy of note. Like those of Mokanna, and other opponents of the house of Abbas, the followers of Carmath distinguished themselves by wearing white raiment to mark their hostility to the reigning khalifs, whose garments and standards retained the black hue which they had displayed against the white banners of the house of Ommiyah. A bloody war was renewed at various periods during

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an entire century between the followers of Carmath and the troops of the khalifs, with varying success. In the course of this war the holy city of Mecca was taken by the sectaries (as it has been of late years by the Wahabees), after the fall of 30,000 Moslems in its defence. The celebrated black stone was taken and conveyed in triumph to Hajar, where it remained for two-and-twenty years, till it was redeemed for 50,000 ducats by the emir of Irak, and replaced in its original seat. Finally, like so many of their predecessors, the Carmathites were vanquished by the yet vigorous power of the empire, and their name, though not their principles, was extinguished.

During this period of contest between the house of Abbas and the Carmathites, a dai (missionary) of the latter, named Abdallah, contrived to liberate from the prison into which he had been thrown by the khalif Motadhad a real or pretended descendant of Fatima, named Obeid-Allah *, whom he conveyed to Africa, and, proclaiming him to be the promised Mehdi (guide), succeeded in establishing for him a dominion on the north coast of that country. The gratitude of Obeid-Allah was shown by his putting to death him to whom he was indebted fir his power; but talent and valour can exist without the presence of virtue, and Obeid-Allah and his two next descendants extended their sway to the shores of the Atlantic. Moez-ladin-Allah, his great-grandson, having achieved the conquest of Egypt and Syria, wisely abandoned his former more distant dominions along the coast of the Mediterranean, his eye being fixed on the more valuable Asiatic empire of he Abbassides. This dynasty of Fatimite khalifs,

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as they were called, reigned during two centuries at Cairo, on the Nile, the foes and rivals of those who sat in Bagdad, on the banks of the Tigris. Like every other eastern dynasty, they gradually sank into impotence and imbecility, and their throne was finally occupied by the renowned Koord Saladin.

Obeid-Allah derived his pedigree from Ismaïl, the seventh imam. His house, therefore, looked to the support of the whole sect of the Seveners, or Ismaïlites, in their projects for extending their sway over the Mohammedan world; and it was evidently their interest to increase the numbers and power of that sect as much as possible. We are accordingly justified in giving credit to the assurances of the eastern historians, that there was a secret institution at Cairo, at the head of which was the Fatimite khalif, and of which the object was the dissemination of the doctrines of the sect of the Ismaïlites, though we may be allowed to hesitate as to the correctness of some of the details.

This society, we are told, comprised both men and women, who met in separate assemblies, for the common supposition of the insignificance of the latter sex in the east is erroneous. It was presided over by the chief missionary (Dai-al-Doat *), who was always a person of importance in the state, and not unfrequently supreme judge (Kadhi-al-kodhat ). Their assemblies, called Societies of Wisdom (Mejalis-al-hicmet), were held twice a-week, on Mondays and Wednesdays. All the members appeared clad in white. The president, having first waited on the khalif, and read to him the intended lecture, or, if that could not be done, having gotten his signature on the back of it, proceeded to the assembly and delivered a written discourse. At the

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conclusion of it those present kissed his hand and reverently touched with their forehead the handwriting of the khalif. In this state the society continued till the reign of that extraordinary madman the khalif Hakem-bi-emr-illah (Judge by the command of God), who determined to place it on a splendid footing. He erected for it a stately edifice, styled the House of Wisdom (Dar-al-hicmet), abundantly furnished with books and mathematical instruments. Its doors were open to all, and paper, pens, and ink were profusely supplied for the use of those who chose to frequent it. Professors of law, mathematics, logic, and medicine were appointed to give instructions; and at the learned disputations which were frequently held in presence of the khalif, these professors appeared in their state caftans (Khalaä), which, it is said, exactly resembled the robes worn at the English universities. The income assigned to this establishment, by the munificence of the khalif, was 257,000 ducats annually, arising from the tenths paid to the crown.

The course of instruction in this university pro. seeded, according to Macrisi, by the following nine degrees:--1. The object of the first, which was long and tedious, was to infuse doubts and difficulties into the mind of the aspirant, and to lead him to repose a blind confidence in the knowledge and wisdom of his teacher. To this end he was perplexed with captious questions; the absurdities of the literal sense of the Koran, and its repugnance to reason, were studiously pointed out, and dark hints were given that beneath this shell lay a kernel sweet to the taste and nutritive to the soul. But all further information was most rigorously withheld till he had consented to bind himself by a most solemn oath to absolute faith and blind obedience to his instructor. 2. When he had taken the oath he was admitted to

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the second degree, which inculcated the acknowledgment of the imams appointed by God as the sources of all knowledge. 3. The third degree informed him what was the number of these blessed and holy imams; and this was the mystic seven; for, as God had made seven heavens, seven earths, seas, planets, metals, tones, and colours, so seven was the number of these noblest of God's creatures. 4. In the fourth degree the pupil learned that God had sent seven lawgivers into the world, each of whom was commissioned to alter and improve the system of his predecessor; that each of these had seven helpers, who appeared in the interval between him and his successor; these helpers, as they did not appear as public teachers, were called the mute (samit), in contradistinction to the speaking lawgivers. The seven lawgivers were Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and Ismaïl, the son of Jaaffer; the seven principal helpers, called Seats (soos), were Seth, Shem, Ishmael (the son of Abraham), Aaron, Simon, Ali, and Mohammed, the son of Ismaïl. It is justly observed * that, as this last personage was not more than a century dead, the teacher had it in his power to fix on whom he would as the mute prophet of the present time, and inculcate the belief in, and obedience to, him of all who had not got beyond this degree. 5. The fifth degree taught that each of the seven mute prophets had twelve apostles for the dissemination of his faith. The suitableness of this number was also proved by analogy. There are twelve signs of the zodiac, twelve months, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve joints in the four fingers of each hand, and so forth. 6. The pupil being led thus far, and having shown no symptoms of restiveness, the precepts of the Koran were once more brought under consideration, and he was told that all the positive portions of

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religion must be subordinate to philosophy. He was consequently instructed in the systems of Plato and Aristotle during a long space of time; and (7), when esteemed fully qualified, he was admitted to the seventh degree, when instruction was communicated in that mystic Pantheism which is held and taught by the sect of the Soofees. 8. The positive precepts of religion were again considered, the veil was torn from the eyes of the aspirant, all that had preceded was now declared to have been merely scaffolding to raise the edifice of knowledge, and was to be flung down. Prophets and teachers, heaven and hell, all were nothing; future bliss and misery were idle dreams; all actions were permitted. 9. The ninth degree had only to inculcate that nought was to be believed, everything might be done *.

In perusing the accounts of secret societies, their rules, regulations, degrees, and the quantity or nature of the knowledge communicated in them, a difficulty must always present itself. Secrecy being of the very essence of everything connected with them, what means had writers, who were generally hostile to them, of learning their internal constitution and the exact nature of their maxims and tenets? In the present case our authority for this account of a society which chiefly flourished in the tenth and eleventh centuries is Macrisi, a writer of the fifteenth century. His authorities were doubtless of more ancient date, but we know not who they were or whence they derived their information. Perhaps our

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safest course in this, as in similar cases, would be to admit the general truth of the statement, but to suffer our minds to remain in a certain degree of suspense as to the accuracy of the details. We can thus at once assent to the fact of the existence of the college at Cairo, and of the mystic tenets of Soofeeism being taught in it, as also to that of the rights of the Fatimites to the khalifat being inculcated on the minds of the pupils, and missionaries being thence sent over the east, without yielding implicit credence to the tale of the nine degrees through which the aspirant had to pass, or admitting that the course of instruction terminated in a doctrine subversive of all religion and of all morality.

As we have seen, the Dai-al-doat, or chief missionary, resided at Cairo, to direct the operations of the society, while the subordinate dais pervaded all parts of the dominions of the house of Abbas, making converts to the claims of Ali. The dais were attended by companions (Refeek), who were persons who had been instructed up to a certain point in the secret doctrines, but who were neither to presume to teach nor to seek to make converts, that honour being reserved to the dais. By the activity of the dais the society spread so widely that in the year 1058 the emir Bessassiri, who belonged to it, made himself master of Bagdad, and kept possession of it during an entire year, and had money struck, and prayer made, in the name of the Egyptian khalif. The emir, however, fell by the sword of Toghrul the Turk, whose aid the feeble Abbasside implored, and these two distinguishing acts of Mohammedan sovereignty were again performed by the house of Abbas. Soon afterwards the society at Cairo seems to have declined along with the power of the Fatimite khalifs. In 1123 the powerful vizir Afdhal, on occasion of some disturbance caused by them, shut up the Dar-al-hicmet,

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or, as it would appear, destroyed it. His successor Mamoon permitted the society to hold their meetings in a building erected in another situation, and it lingered on till the fall of the khalifat of Egypt. The policy of Afdhal is perhaps best to be explained by a reference to the state of the East at that time. The khalif of Bagdad was become a mere pageant devoid of all real power; the former dominions of the house of Abbas were in the hands of the Seljookian Turks; the Franks were masters of a great part of Syria, and threatened Egypt, where the khalifs were also fallen into incapacity, and the real power had passed to the vizir. As this last could aspire to nothing beyond preserving Egypt, a society instituted for the purpose of gaining partisans to the claims of the Fatimites must have been rather an impediment to him than otherwise. He must therefore have been inclined to suppress it, especially as the society of the Assassins, a branch of it, had now been instituted, which, heedless of the claims of the Fatimites, sought dominion for itself alone. To the history of that remarkable association we now proceed.


26:* See Ockley's History of the Saracens.

28:* Hence they were named the Standing (Wakfiyah).

28:† Abbas, the ancestor of this family, was one of the uncles p. 29 of the Prophet. They obtained possession of the khalifat A.D. 750, and retained it through an hereditary succession of princes for 500 years. Al-Mansoor, the second khalif of this dynasty, transferred the royal residence from Damascus, where the Ommiades had dwelt, to Bagdad, which he founded on the banks of the Tigris. This city, also named the City of Peace, the Vale of Peace, the House of Peace, has acquired, beyond what any other town can claim, a degree of romantic celebrity by means of the inimitable Thousand and One Nights. Such is the ennobling power of genius!

30:* Khizer, by some supposed, but perhaps erroneously, to be the prophet Elias, is regarded by the Mohammedans in the light of a beneficent genius. He is the giver of youth to the animal and the vegetable world. He is clad in garments of the most brilliant green, and he stands as keeper of the Well of Life in the Land of Darkness. According to the romances of the East, Iskander, that is, Alexander the Great, resolved to march into the West, to the Land of Darkness, that he might drink of the water of immortality. During seven entire days he and his followers journeyed through dark and dismal deserts. At length they faintly discerned in the distance the green light which shone from the raiment of Khizer. As they advanced it became more and more resplendent, like the brightest and purest emeralds. As the monarch approached, Khizer dipped a cup in the verdant Water of Life, and reached it to him; but the impatience of Iskander was so great that he spilt the contents of the cup, and the law of fate did not permit the guardian of the fount to fill it for him again. The moral of this tale is evident. Its historic foundation is the journey of the Macedonian to the temple of Ammon.

32:* See Frazer's Khorasān.

33:* Lari and Macrisi, quoted by Hammer.

35:* Macrisi is Hammer's authority for the preceding account of Abdallah. It is to be observed that this Abdallah is unnoticed by Herbelot.

36:* The genuineness of the descent of Obeid-Allah has been a great subject of dispute among the eastern historians and jurists. Those in the interests of the house of Abbas strained every nerve to make him out an impostor.

37:* That is, Missionary of Missionaries.

37:† Cadhi of Cadhis.

39:* Hammer, p. 54.

40:* Mr. De Sacy (Journal des Savans, an 1818) is of opinion that the Arabic words Taleel and Ibahat will not hear the strong sense which Hammer gives them. The former, he says, only signifies that Deism which regards the Deity as merely a speculative being, and annihilates the moral relations between him and the creature; the latter only denotes emancipation from the positive precepts of laws, such as fasting prayer, &c., but not from moral obligations.

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