Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/116

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PERSIA.

faction, as it were, to the Christians resident in the country, and to administer justice with the sanction of those who are the guardians of the laws of Mahometan states, Abbas convened a divan composed of the Sheik-ul-Islam, and the principal ulemas of the city of Tabreez, and proposed the following questions, which he required them to answer in succession, according to their custom:—

Question. Was the Lord Jesus (Hazreti-Iysa) a real prophet sent by God?—Answer. Yes.

Question. Are the laws contained in his noble gospel (Indjili-sheryf) just or not/—Answer. Yes, they are just.

Question. Is it permitted by our laws to blaspheme the Lord Jesus and his noble gospel?—Answer. No, it is unjust.

Upon these unanimous decisions of the ulemas, called in such cases, fetva, (sentence) the prince-royal ordered the merchant to be set at liberty, and his servant to be punished with one hundred strokes of the bastinado; and he dismissed him from his service, as a warning to all who should be disposed to insult the professors of a different religion from their own.

Similar sentiments were displayed by the monarch himself, on a more recent occasion:—In April 1815, the vicinity of the capital was visited with an extraordinary drought. The Sheik-ul-Islam of that city, who was held in high consideration by the king and the court, but who was not acquainted with the good intentions of the sovereign towards all his subjects without distinction, imagined that he was performing an action well pleasing to God and his majesty, in collecting in his house two hundred of the populace, and persuading them that the drought and the consequent dearth of the productions of the soil, were a punishment inflicted by the Almighty, because people frequented the taverns kept by the Armenians; adding that to appease the divine wrath, they ought to destroy those haunts of impiety. By such language, the Sheik-ul-Islam inflamed the minds of his hearers, who tumultuously proceeded to the quarter inhabited by the Armenians, and in the presence of the Sheik, demolished one of their churches, and pulled down the houses of several dealers in wine.

It was not long before the king was informed of this outrage. He ordered the Sheik-ul-Islam, and the persons whom he had instigated to its commission, to be immediately apprehended and brought before him. Being apprized of his majesty's indignation, they had concealed themselves in different parts of the city; and the Sheik-ul-Islam, who had most to fear from the king's displeasure, sought refuge in the mosque of Shah Abdul Azym, a few miles from Teheran, which is an inviolable sanctuary for