The travels of Sig. Pietro della Valle, a noble Roman, into East-India and Arabia Deserta in which, the several countries, together with the customs, manners, traffique, and rites both religious and civil, of those Oriental princes and nations, are faithfully described : in familiar letters to his friend Signior Mario Schipano : whereunto is added a relation of Sir Thomas Roe's Voyage into the East-Indies.
Della Valle, Pietro, 1586-1652., Roe, Thomas, Sir, 1581?-1644., Havers, G. (George)

SECTION XV. Of their Religion, their Priests, their Devotion, their Churches, &c.

ANd now I come to speak of their Religion, I shall first take notice of the Mahometan Religion there professed. That of the Hindoos or Heathens shall find a place wherein I may speak of it afterwards.

But first of the Mahometan Religion, because the Great Mogol with his Grandees, and all other of quality about him are Ma∣hometans; which Religion (if it deserve that name) took its first Rise, and began to be professed in the world about the year of Christ 620, as hath been observed by many Writers.

The Ring-leader to it, and chief Founder of it was Mahomet, an Arabian by Birth, born (as is said) in a very obscure place, and of very mean and low Parentage, but a Man fill'd with all Subtilty and Craft; who, (as they write) after that he had much enriched himself by Wives, came to be the Commander of a Company of Arabian Volunteers that followed Heraclius the Emperour in his Persian Warrs; but not long after, himself and Souldiers, falling first into Mutiny, and after that to Re∣bellion, which was an excellent preparative to put an inno∣vation or change on Religion, and his Souldiers standing close unto him, he himself, with the help of Sergius, a Christian by profession, but an Heretical Nestorian Monk, and of Abdala a Jew, composed a Religion that hath nothing in it, or that sa∣vours of nothing so much, as of rude Ignorance, and most palpable Imposture; it being a Monster of many Heads; a most damnable mixture of horrid impieties, if it be considered all∣together.

Yet because it contains much in it very pleasing to flesh and blood, and sooths up, and complies exceedingly with corrupt Nature, it wanted no followers presently to embrace, and assert it; so that in a little time, like a Gangrene, it spred it self into many parts of Asia, and since that hath enlarged it self like Hell; so that, at this present day, it hath more that profess it in the world, than those which profess Christianity, if we take in all collectively that do but bear the Names of Christians, the world over.

The poor people, that are so much abused by the strong de∣lusions of that great Impostor, say for themselves thus, that Page  420 God hath sent three great Prophets into the world, first Moses, and after him Christ, and then Mahomet; and further add, that when Christ left the world he promised to send a Comforter in∣to it, and that Comforter was Mahomet, and therefore they close with him.

I shall not need amongst men professing Christianity to write any thing in answer to those their frantick assertions, neither will I make it my business to enlarge my self in the discovery of the Mahometan Religion, because that hath been done by so many hands already; only this I will say of it, and not much more, that it hath Will-worship for its Foundation; Fables and Lies for its support; and a groundless presumption for its super∣structure.

For its Foundation; first, abundance of Will-worship, mani∣fested in many outwatd performances, which are not hard to be performed, because the depraved will of man, is ready prest and bent to perform things of that kind with readiness, cheerfulness, and delight. The works of your Father the Devil you will do, saith our Saviour, of the obstinate Jews; do them, be they never so hard, with content and willingness.

Secondly, the Mahometan Religion hath abundance of strange Monstroos Fables and Lyes for its support, their Alcoran (for the substance of it) being a fardle of foolish impossibilities, fit to be received by none but fools and mad-men; for they can gain no more credit with those that are judicious, then what is related in the ryming story of that antient Knight Errant, Be∣vis of Southampton, or in the Poems of Orlando, the furious, where may be found some such like parallel fictions, as of Astalpho who mounted a Griffin, which carried him up immediately into the Moon, where (they say) Mahomet sometime was; the reason I conceive which made himself, and his followers, ever since so full of Lunacy or madness.

Thirdly, it hath a groundless presumption for its super∣structure, which presumption draws that misled people into a careless security, they esteeming themselves the only true be∣lievers of the world, and none true believers but themselves.

Yet it cannot be denied, but that there are some things in the precepts which Mahomet hath prescribed to be received and ob∣served by his followers, that are good; laid down in eight com∣mandments which are these.

First, That God is a great God, and the only God, and Maho∣met is the Prophet of God.

Second, That Children must obey their Parents, and do nothing to displease them either in word or deed.

Third, That every one must do to another that, and only that, which he would have another do to him.

Fourth, That every man five times every day must repair to the Mosquit or Church, to pray there; or, wheresoever he is, he must pray every day so often, if not in the Church, then elsewhere.

Page  421Fifth, That one whole Moon in every year, every man, come to years of discretion, must spend the whole day, 'twixt the rising, and setting of the Sun, in fasting.

Sixth, That every one out of his store, must give unto the poor liberally, freely, and voluntarily.

Seventh, That every one (except those Votaries which renounce marriage) must marry, to increase and multiply the Sect and Re∣ligion of Mahomet.

Eighth, That no man must kill, or shed blood.

Now much in these Commandments agrees with the word of Truth; and we need not wonder at it, when we consider, that even the Devil himself (as we may observe in the Gospel) hath sometimes had a Scripture in his mouth. So have Hereticks, and so did Mahomet and his Assistants mix some Scripture in their Alcoran, to put a fairer gloss upon their irreligion. But what Scriptures they all urge, are for the most part, if not ever, wrested, by their maiming, or perverting, or mis-applying of them. Thus the Devil quotes a Scripture, Mat. 4.6. but one part is left out, and the rest mis-applied. Those therefore who wrest or mangle Scripture to serve their own turn, we may see from whose School they have it. Thus Mahomet cites Scripture to do more mischief by it; let no man content himself, and think all is well, because he can sometimes speak good words, have a Scripture in his mouth; when he considers that Hereticks, Hy∣pocrites do so, that Mahomet, nay Satan himself hath done as much.

But to proceed; the Mahometan-Priests are called Moolaas, who read some parcels out of their Alcoran, upon Fridays (which are their Sabbaths or days of rest) unto the people assembled in their Mosquits or Churches, and then further deliver some pre∣cepts, which they gather out of it, unto their miserably deluded hearers.

These Moolaas are they which joyn those of that Religion in marriage; and these imploy much of their time as Scriveners to do businesses for others; or to teach their young Children to write and read their language in written hand, for (as before) they have no Printing. Those Moolaas are more distinguished from the rest of the Mahometans by their Beards (which they wear long) then by any other of their habits. Their Calling gains, and gives them very much reverence and esteem amongst the People; as another sort of Priests there have, of an high order or rank, which live much retired; but when they appear openly are most highly reverenced; they are called Scayds who derive themselves from Mahomet.

The Mahometans have fair Churches which (as before) are called Mosquits; their Churches are built of Marble or coarser stone, the broad-side towards the West is made up close like a firm wall, and so are both ends, in which there are no lights; Page  422 the other broad side towards the East is erected upon Pillars (where a man may take notice of the excellent workmanship both in Vaults, and Arches) the spaces betwixt them Pillars stand open. Their Churches are built long and narrow, stand∣ing North and South which way they lay up the bodies of their dead, but none of them within their Churches.

At the four corners of their Mosquits which stand in great Ci∣ties or in other places much peopled, there are high and round, but small Turrets; which are made open with lights every way, wherein a man may be easily seen, and heard; their devout Moo∣laas five times every day ascend unto the tops of those high Turrets, whence they proclaim, as loudly as they can possibly speak, their Prophet Mahomet, thus in Arabian, La alla illa alla, Mahomet Resul-alla, that is, There is no God but one God, and Mahomet the Messenger from God, That voice instead of Bells (which they use not in their Churches) puts the most devout in mind of the hours of their devotion, those Priests being ex∣ceedingly zealous to promote the cause, and to keep up the ho∣nour of their Mahomet, as the men of Ephesus sometime were: when they feared that the credit of their Baggage Diana was like to be called into question, they took up a Cry which conti∣nued for the space of two hours, Crying out with one voice, Great is Diana of the Ephesians, Acts 19.24.

But to return again to those Mahometan Priests, who out of zeal do so often proclaim their Mahomet. Tom Coryat upon a time having heard their Moolaas often (as before) so to cry, got him upon an high place directly opposite to one of those Priests, and contradicted him thus: La alla illa alla, Hasaret Eesa Ben∣alla, that is, No God, but one God, and the Lord Christ the Son of God, and further added that Mahomet was an Impostor: and all this he spake in their own language as loud as possibly he could, in the ears of many Mahometans that heard it. But whether (circumstances considered) the zeal, or discretion of our Pilgrim were more here to be commended, I leave to the judgment of my Reader. That he did so, I am sure, and I fur∣ther believe how that bold attempt of his, if it had been acted in many other places of Asia, would have cost him his life with as much torture as cruelty could been invented. But he was here taken for a mad-man, and so let alone.

Haply the rather, because every one there hath liberty to profess his own Religion freely, and, if he please, may argue against theirs, without fear of an inquisition, as Tom Coryat did at another time with a Moolaa, and the Question was, Which of these two was the Mussleman or true Believer: after much heat on both sides, Tom Coryat thus distinguished, that himself was the Orthodox Musslemam or true true-believer, the Moolaa the pseudo Mussleman or false true believer; which distinction, if I had not thought it would have made my Reader smile had been here omitted.

Page  423The Mahometans have a set form of prayer in the Arabian Tongue, not understood by many of the common people, yet repeated by them as well as by the Moolaas: they likewise re∣hearse the Names of God and of their Mahomet certain times every day upon Beads, like the miss-led Papists, who seem to regard more the Number, then the weight of prayers.

But for the carriage of that people in their devotions, before they go into their Churches they wash their feet, and entring into them put off their shooes. As they begin their devotions they stop their ears, and fix their eyes, that nothing may divert their thoughts; then in a soft and still voice they utter their prayers, wherein are many words most significantly expressing the Omnipotency, and Greatness, and Eternity, and other At∣tributes of God. Many words likewise that seem to express much humiliation, they confessing in divers submissive gestures, their own unworthiness, when they pray casting themselves low upon their Face sundry times, and then acknowledg that they are burdens to the Earth, and poyson to the Air, and the like, being so confounded and asham'd as that they seem not to dare so much as to lift up their eyes towards Heaven; but after all this, comfort themselves in the mercies of God, through the mediation of Mahomet.

If this people could as well conclude, as they can begin and continue their prayers, in respect of their expressions, and car∣riages in them, they might find comfort; but the conclusion of their devotions marrs all.

Yet this, for their commendation (who doubtless, if they knew better would pray better) that what diversions, and im∣pediments soever they have arising either from pleasure or pro∣fit, the Mahometans pray five times a day. The Mogol doth so, who sits on the Throne; the Shepherd doth so that waits on his flock in the field (where, by the way, they do not follow their flocks; but their flocks, them) all sorts of Mahometans do thus whether fixed in a place or moving in a journey, when their times, or hours of prayer come, which in the morning are at Six, Nine, and Twelve of the clock; and at three and six in the afternoon.

When they pray, it is their manner to set their Faces that they may look towards Medina neer Mecha in Arabia where their great Seducer Mahomet was buried, who promised them after one thousand years, to fetch them all to Heaven; which term, when it was out, and the promise not fulfilled, the Mahome∣tans concluded that their Fore-fathers mis-took the time of the promise of his coming; and therefore resolve to wait for the accomplishment of it one thousand years more. In the mean time they do so reverence that place where the body of Maho∣met was laid up, that whosoever hath been there (as there are divers which flock yearly thither in Pilgrimage) are for ever af∣ter called, and esteemed Hoggees, which signifies Holy men.

Page  424And here the thing being rightly and seriously considered; it is a very great shame that a Mahometan should pray five times every day, that Pagans and Heathens should be very frequent in their devotions, and Christians (who only can hope for good answers in prayer) so negligent in that great prevailing duty. For a Mahometan to pray five times every day, what diversions soever he hath to hinder him, and for a Christian to let any thing interrupt his devotion; for a Mahometan to pray five times a day, and for one that is called a Christian not to pray (some be∣lieving themselves above this and other Ordinances) five times in a week, a moneth, a year!

But this will admit less cause of wonder if we consider how that many bearing the Names of Christians cannot pray at all, those I mean which are prophane and filthy, and who live as if there were no God to hear, or to judg, and no Hell to punish. Such as these can but babble, they cannot pray, for they blas∣pheme the Name of God, while they may think they adore it.

I shall add here a short story; It happened that I once having some discourse with a Mahometan of good quality, and speak∣ing with him about his frequent praying, I told him that if him∣self, and others of his profession who did believe it as a duty to pray so often, could conclude their Petitions in the Name of Jesus Christ, they might find much comfort in those their fre∣quent performances, in that great duty: He answered, that I needed not to trouble my self with that, for they found as great comfort as they could desire in what they did. And presently he would needs infer this Relation.

There was (said he) a most devout Mussleman who had his habitation in a great City where Mahomet was zealously pro∣fessed, that man for many years together spent his whole day in the Mosquit, or Church; in the mean time, he minding not the world at all, became so poor that he had nothing left to buy bread for his family; yet, notwithstanding his poor condition, he was resolved still to ply his devotions: and in a morning (when he perceived that there was nothing at all left for the further subsistence of himself and houshold) took a solemn leave of his wife and children, resolving for his part to go and pray and dye in the Mosquit, leaving his family (if no relief came) to famish at home. But that very day he put on this resolution, there came to his house in his absence a very beautiful young man (as he appeared to be) who brought and gave unto his wife a very good quantity of Gold bound up in a white Napkin, telling her, that God had now remembred her husband, and sent him his pay for his constant pains taken in his devotion; withall charging her not to send for her husband, for though he had taken such a solemn leave of her that morning, yet he would come home to her again that night; and so he departed from her. The woman presently bought in some necessaries for her house (for they had eaten up all before), and further made some Page  425 good provision for her husband against his coming home in the evening (for so he did); and finding all his family very cheerful and merry, his wife presently told him, that there had been such a one there (as before described) and left so much gold be∣hind him, with that fore-mentioned message delivered with it. Her husband presently replied that it was the Angel Gabriel sent from God (for the Mahometans speak much of that Angel) and he further added, that himself had nothing to bring home unto her but a little grett, or sand, which he took up in his way homeward, and bound it in his girdle, which he presently open∣ing to shew her, it was all turn'd into precious stones, which amounted unto a very great value in money. The seventh part of which, as of his gold likewise, he presently gave to the poor, (for, said he, a Mussleman is very charitable) and then inferr'd, that if we do not neglect God, God will not forget us; but when we stand most in need of help will supply us. Unto which conclusion we may all subscribe, leaving the premises which are laid down in that story, unto those that dare be∣lieve them.

The Mahometans say, that they have the Books of Moses, but they have very much corrupted that story, in ascribing that to Ishmael which is said of Isaac, Gen. 22. as if Ishmael should have been sacrificed, not Isaac, (of which more afterward). They say, that they have the Book of Davids Psalms; and some Wri∣tings of Solomon, with other parcels of the Old Testament; which, if so, I believe are made much to vary from their Original.

They speak very much in the honour of Moses whom they call Moosa Calim-Alla; Moses, the publisher of the mind of God. So of Abraham whom they call Ibrahim Carim-Alla, Abraham the honoured or friend of God.

So of Ishmael whom they call Ismal, The Sacrifice of God. So of Jacob, whom they call Acob, The blessing of God. So of Joseph, whom they call Eesoff, The betrayed for God. So of David, whom they call Dahood, The lover, and praiser of God. So of Solomon, whom they call Selymon, The wisdom of God; all expressed, as the former, in short Arabian words, which they sing in Ditties unto their particular remembrances.

And, by the way, many of the Mahometans there are called by the names of Moosa, or Ibrahim, or Ismal, or Acob, or Eesoff, or Dahood, or Selymon: so others are called Mahmud, or Chaan, which signifies the Moon; or Frista, which signifies a Star, &c. And they call their women by the names of Flowers or Fruits of their Country, or by the names of Spices or Odours, or of Pearls, or precious Stones, or else by other names of pretty or pleasing signification. As Job named one of his daughters Jemimah, which signifies, Clear as the day; the second Keziah, which sig∣nifies pleasant, as Cassia or sweet Spice. And the name of the third Keren-happuch, signifying, The Horn or strength of beauty, Job 42.14.

Page  426But I'll return again to that people, that I may acquaint my Reader with one thing of special observation, and 'tis this: That there is not one among the Mahometans (of any under∣standing) which at any time mentions the name of our blessed Saviour called there Hazaret Eesa, the Lord Christ, but he makes mention of it with high reverence and respect. For they say of Christ that he was a good man, and a just, that he lived without sin, that he did greater miracles then ever any before or since him; nay further they call him Rha-how-Alla, the breath of God, but how he should be the Son of God, they cannot conceive, and therefore cannot believe.

Perhaps the Socinians first took that their opinion from these, which bids them to have every thing they receive as truth, to be cleared up unto them by the strength of Reason, as if there were no need of the exercise of Faith.

And truly (I must needs confess) that to believe the Incar∣nation of the Son of God, is one of the hardest and greatest tasks for Faith to encounter withall, that God should be made a Man, that this Man Christ should be born of a Virgin, that Life should spring from Death; and that from Contempt and Scorn, Triumph, and Victory should come, &c. But Christians must bind up all their thoughts, as to these, in that excellent medi∣tation of Picus Mirandula, saying, Mirandam Dei Incarnati∣nem, &c. concerning that admirable, and wonderful Incar∣nation of Christ the Son of God, I shall not say much; it be∣ing sufficient for me, as for all others that look for benefit by Christ, to believe, that he was begotten, and that he was born. These are Articles of our Faith; and we are not Chri∣stians, if we believe them not.

I may seem very strange therefore, that the Mahometans (who understand themselves better) should have such a very high esteem of our Blessed Saviour Christ, and yet think us who profess our selves Christians to be so unworthy, or so un∣clean, as that they will not eat with us, any thing that is of our dressing, nor yet of any thing that is dressed in our vessels.

There are more particulars which challenge a room in this Section as their proper place: but because I would not have it swell too big, I shall here part it, and speak further