Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/103

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PERSIA.

flashes and disappears, but the wicked will he tumbled from it into the infernal regions.

The Persians admit seven degrees of felicity and torment; but differ respecting their nature. Some doctors assert that the soul of the good will revel in purely spiritual joys, such as the sense of its qualities, the knowledge of all the sciences, &c.: while others represent paradise as the theatre of the most refined pleasures of sense, peopling it with houris, or celestial females, to whose beauty the imagination which creates them can alone do justice. According to the former, the pains of hell will consist of mental torments, and, according to the latter, of bodily sufferings. In this future state, the women will live apart from men, but in the arms of youthful Ganymedes they will enjoy delights of which this nether world affords no image.

In adopting the Koran, the Persians have acknowledged the divine mission and the prophetic character of its author. According to them, there have been 280,000 prophets since the creation of the world. Adam was the first of them, and Mahomet the last. All the epithets attached by the Musulmans to the name of that impostor, would fill a volume. One of the most extraordinary, is that of ignorant: they repeat it with enthusiasm, proclaim it with emphasis, and find in this ignorance a manifest proof of the divine nature of his mission; upon the ground that the less learning a prophet possesses, the more manifest it is that the doctrine he preaches must be from heaven.


SECTION II.

OF ALL—OF THE TITLE OF IMAM—OF MEHDI.

We have seen that it is an article of the Persian confession of faith, that Ali was the lieutenant of God: in an axiom which is very common with them, they demonstrate the respect which they pay him. Mahomet, say they, is a city of knowledge, and Ali is the gate to it. Setting no bounds to their veneration or their fanaticism, they exalt him above human nature, attribute miracles to him, and almost deify him: nay, there is a sect, whose members inhabit the countries contiguous to the sources of the Djihoun and the Sind, to the north of Kandahar, who regard him as God, though they admit the divine character of the Koran, and follow its precepts. It is chiefly among the lowest class of the people, that these exaggerated notions are current: this caliph's name always figures in their oaths, and instead of commending themselves to the divine protection, they invoke that of Ali. The superior orders, however, make a great dif-