Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/114

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PERSIA.

The devout Mahometans charge the Sofis with atheism; while the latter not only deny the accusation, but pretend to hold intercourse with God: they assemble at night, and perform the exercises of turning round, jumping and shouting, till they drop down from weakness and exhaustion. Owing to these practices, they are obnoxious to the Persians, and the appellation of Soft, sought some centuries ago by persons of the greatest sanctity, is now a term of reproach.

The sentiments of the reigning monarch respecting these fanatics, cannot be more clearly demonstrated, than in the translation of a letter addressed by him to one of his governors, enjoining him to punish two Sofis who had endeavoured to excite sedition and to defy the supreme authority:—

"Whereas for some time Sofis have spread their opinion in a truly alarming manner, and gained a great number of credulous and silly proselytes, who blindly adopt the faith and the habit of those preachers: as nothing can be more hostile to the interests of the true religion; as the subject has been deemed worthy of the attention of our wisest counsellors, and you have yourselves addressed to us your observations upon it; we have deemed it advisable to take this matter into consideration, and to write to our governors and officers to punish these Sofis, unless they amend their conduct, to take from them what they have craftily obtained from the credulous and people of weak minds; and in case the owners of these things cannot be discovered, to distribute them among the poor. We have lastly ordered this sect to be extirpated and destroyed, that the true faith_may flourish. Aga Mehdy and Mirza Mehdy have misled the people in the neighbourhood of Hamadan, where they were regarded as holy doctors; they have been sent prisoners into our presence. We now deliver them into your hands, considering you as the most ]earned, the wisest, and the most-virtuous of the doctors of this kingdom. Put them to death, imprison them, or punish them in any manner most agreeable to the laws of our holy religion." The two Sofis were executed.

CHAPTER VI.

RELIGIOUS TOLERATION.

The Persians, unlike the other professors of the Mahometan faith, manifest a spirit of toleration towards those whom they regard as infidels, worthy of the imitation of many a Christian community. To show how this spirit is encouraged by the