Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/107

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PERSIA.

obliged to turn towards Mecca, to make certain motions with his arms and hands, and to prostrate himself according to specific rules. After stripping to his shirt, the sleeves of which he tucks up above the elbows, he puts on his head a turban of linen cloth without gold, silver, or embroidery, and performs his ablutions. This done, he puts on his stockings, turns down his sleeves, throws on his robe, spreads his carpet, and squats on a corner of it in the eastern fashion, and after combing his board, takes up his rosary and begins his prayers. He generally places on the floor, at a little distance before him, a plate of metal, on which are engraved the name of God, those of the prophet and the Imams, the profession of faith and texts of the Koran: the use of it is to receive the forehead, in the prostrations which accompany the prayers.

A Persian is rarely without a string of beads in his hand: this he carries not so much out of a spirit of religion, as for a guide in the ordinary concerns of life. When, for example, he thinks of going to some place, making a bargain, or performing any action whatever, he lays hold of a handfull of beads at random, and from their number he decides whether he shall do what he intended or not.

As there are no clocks in Persia, the time for each prayer is announced by the muezzins, or cryers, stationed for the purpose in the minarets of the mosques. To augment the power of their voices, they pull their mouths with their little fingers, placing their thumbs in their ears, and sing out with all their might, so that they may sometimes be heard at the distance of twelve or fifteen hundred paces. On hearing the well-known sound, every one says his prayers either at the mosque, or at his own house; for the Persians rarely visit their temples, as their religion allows them to perform at their own homes the duties which it imposes.

We shall conclude this section with a trait which evinces the subtlety of the Persian divines. Their religion forbids them to pray in a room containing any painting of the human countenance. To evade this injunction, the face is represented with one eye only: thus mutilated, it is no longer an image, my these doctors, but a grotesque figure which is not forbidden by their law.

SECTION III.

ALMS AND FASTS.

The Koran, in several places, commands the giving of alms. Every Musulman who has acquired wealth, generally devotes part of it to the foundation of establishments of public utility, and that independently of the tithe required by religion to be