Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/117

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PERSIA.

criminals, and even for murderers. The mosques in which the Imams or their children are interred, enjoy the same privilege.

The royal guards, however, discovered and secured twelve of these people, who were carried before the king. He was surrounded by all his ministers. "Audacious wretches!" said he, "who commanded you to act thus? What law authorizes such proceedings? Is the Sheik-ul-Islam your sovereign, or the ruler of this country? Ye have violated the laws of my dominions; by them I condemn you: depart from my presence." The legal penalties were immediately enforced, and the culprits were obliged to pay the Armenians an indemnification of one thousand toomauns. His majesty then sent for the principal persons of the Armenian nation. "It is my wish," said he to them, "that all my subjects, of what religion soever they be, should enjoy a just liberty, and live unmolested under the protection of my royal authority." He then promised to inflict condign punishment on the Sheik-ul-Islam, and exhorted them to pray to God for the preservation of his life. At the same time, Feth Ali Shah ordered his treasurer to pay to these notables the sum of three thousand toomauns out of his privy purse, as a compensation to the Christians for the injury they had sustained. He moreover commanded that the Armenian church should be repaired at the expense of government, and that restitution should be made for such furniture and effects as had been damaged or destroyed.

If the preceding facts exhibit a laudable relaxation of Mahometan rigour towards those whom they regard as infidels, the following whimsical anecdote proves the Persians to be the least fanatic of all Musulmans, in permitting doubts to be publicly raised among themselves against points of faith inculcated by their own religion.

A mollah, preaching one day in a mosque, strongly insisted on the examination which the deceased have to undergo from the angels of death, Nekyr and Monkyr, as soon as they are deposited in the tomb. "Don't believe a word of it!" cried one of the congregation, "for one of my slaves died a few days since; I filled his mouth with rice, and on digging him up again to-day, the rice was just as I left it. Now, it is morally impossible for a man to give answers even to angels, with his mouth full." Such an argument, brought forward in any other place than a mosque, in Turkey, would not have passed without answer.