Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/105

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PERSIA.

principle on which purifications are enjoined. But bigotry has so increased the number of objects which make a person unclean, and carried its scruples relative to legal purity to such a length, that the half of life might be occupied with purifications.

"Religion," says Mahomet, "is founded on cleanliness of the body." No pretexts not even the want of water, can excuse the Musulman from the duty of purifying himself before he says his prayers. For want of running water he will use such as is stagnant and muddy, earth, or even camel's dung. Hence it may easily be supposed, that a Persian is frequently more dirty after than before his purifications. Thus all institutions, how useful soever originally, in process of time become corrupted. Moses, in making purifications a religious duty, designed to prevent those diseases which are engendered by neglect of cleanliness, especially in a hot climate where perspiration is profuse. Mahomet adopted this principle, and for the same purpose. Such was the cause of this institution, but what is its effect? If personal cleanliness be the emblem of internal purity, it must be confessed that the Persians have very filthy souls indeed.

There are three kinds of purifications: the gasl, he ab-dest or vouzou, and the gousl. The first is washing for all the material impurities that may happen to be on the body of a Musulman, on his garments, or in his oratory. It is to preserve himself from such impurities that the Musulman, though he takes the greatest care of animals, and uses them well, will constantly drive them from his person or apartment. He will abstain for the same reason from wearing robes that reach the ground, lest they should touch any thing impure; he will wear double coverings or the feet, the outermost of which he leaves at the door of apartments; and he will never go abroad or undertake a journey without his sedjadeh, or carpet, on which he says his prayers.

The ab-dest, or ablution, is required whenever the believer has defiled himself by drinking wine and on other occasions; it must precede the five canonical prayers. This ablution consists in washing the face, hands, and arms as high as the elbows, and the feet up to the ancle. The frequent recurrence of this practice has occasioned the necessity for the great number of fountains that are met with in the East, by the road-side, in the caravanserais, and in private houses. All the mosques have basins deeper than the height of a man, destined for purifications, and which may be compared to the brazen laver in Solomon's temple at Jerusalem.

The gousl, or general lotion, extends to the whole body. It is repeated twice or thrice a week in private or public baths, and it is strictly practised among all Mahometan nations.