1902 Encyclopedia > Arabia > Arab Religion. Wahhabis (Wahhabees). Orthodox Sects. Khowarij.

(Part 28)


(28) Arab Religion. Wahabbis (Wahhabees). Orthodox Sects. Khowarij.

Arab Religion.

Where the Wahhabee doctrines have definitely established themselves, as in Nejd, Yemameh, Hareek, aflaj, and Jebel Aseer, the Mahometan code, as laid down in the Koran, is observed more strictly perhaps than in any other part of the eastern World. Besides the principal mosque, or "jamia," for Friday prayers, indispensable in every town or village, smaller praying-places, or misjids, are erected in every quarter. These buildings are mere oblong rooms, flat-roofed, supported on numerous rough pillars placed close to each other, and with no architectural or decorative beauty whatever; but are kept scrupulously clean, and laid down partly with mats, partly gravel. In most cases there is no minaret attached, the times of prayer being merely announced by the "mueddin," or crier, from the roof itself. Punctuality in attendance is enforced by the "mutowwas," or "compellers" of "obedience," a set of self-elected zealots, who parade the towns and villages with sticks in their hands, take note of the defaulters from prayers, or transgressors otherwise of the letter of the law, and punish them with reproaches or even blows. Marriage, divorce, inheritance, purchase, every detail of life is regulated in exact accordance with the Koran; even conversation is liable to censure unless thickly interlarded with words of religious import; while after night-prayers talking is a luxury prohibited altogether. Yet, though these wahhabee Arabs are bigoted even to fanaticism among themselves and with their fellow-countrymen, they are remarkable tolerant towards strangers, and often unite with the extreme of theoretical exclusiveness a good deal of the practical skepticism and indifference common to their race.

Orthodox Sects

These Wahhabee all belong to the orthodox sect of Ebn-Hanbal, and are in fact its most exaggerated expression. In the eastern provinces, Hasa, Katee, Bahreyn, and Katar, the Malikee sect is more common; as also, it is said, in Hadramaut, and in some parts of Yemen. But in Yemen generally, and throughout the Hejaz, the Shafeyee sect, orthodox like the two others, predominates. There are no Hanefees in Arabia, except a few Turks or Indians settled on the western coast. "Sheeah," too, or votaries of Ali and his family, in the Persian sense of the word, are by no means common in the peninsula, and where found are often of foreign origin.


But all along the Persian Gulf, in Hasa, Bahreyn, and Katar, a considerable proportion of the inhabitants are not Mahometans at all, that is, in the ordinary acceptation of the word, but "Khowarij," or "seceders," belonging to the Karmathian school already mentioned; while in Oman, the little peninsula or cape of ras-el-Rheymah excepted, where Wahhabeeism has made good its footing, the bulk of the people belong to the Beyadee or Abadee sect, a Karmathian offshoot nearly allied in doctrines and in oractice to the "Ismaileeyah" of Syria. For a detailed account of either the reader may with advantage consult Silvestre de Sacy’s admirable treatise on the "Batineeyah," or secret sects of the Mahometan East, prefixed to his History of the Druses. Somewhat akin to these, but of a less marked divergence from orthodox Islam, are the Zeydees, of whom great numbers exist in Yemen. Lastly, paganism, or rather the fetichism that takes for its scope a stone, tree, or some other natural object, appears to exist in Mahrah, in the southern Jowf, and in various small half-isolated spots on the borders of the great desert, or Dahna. Vestiges of Sabaism, or the worship of the heavenly bodies, are said to linger among the wilder Bedouin tribes, who even yet compute the year from the rising of Soheyl or Canopus, and prostrate themselves to the morning sun. It is also noticeable that even such of the southern Arabs as are professedly Mahometan, are far less zealous and much laxer in their ways than the Arabs of the north; in fact, the Islam of the latter was indigenous , that of the former acquired or compulsory.

Except in a few places on the west coast long exposed to Egyptian, Turkish, and Indian influences, no dervishes are to be met with, or are even tolerated, in Arabia proper. The Wahhabees all hold them in the utmost contempt and abhorrence. Nor are Arabs, generally speaking, superstitious in other respects: of dreams and omens they make little account; nor does the apprehension of ghosts, specters, apparitions, demons, and the like often disquiet their hours of loneliness or darkness; stories of such character, though embodied here and there in Arab literature, in the Thousand and One Nights for example, are less frequently of Arab than of foreign origin, generally Persian. Nor do Arabs often seek to convert others, except it be their own purchased Negro slaves, a facile acquisition, to Mahometanism, or molest those of other religions. Jews exist undisturbed in great numbers near Teyma and in the south; Hindoos worship cows and burn their dead without interference in Oman; only old custom, it would seem, and the memory of long and bitter wars, prohibits the practice of the Christian religion in Arabia proper,-Aden alone, of course, where the British flag proclaims absolute tolerance, excepted.

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