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and hymns, equally dissolute, conspire with the beauties of these instructors in the science of obscenity, to provoke the passions to excess; and the consequent profligacy, which at once corrupts the principles of the votary, and conciliates the favour and corresponds with the carnality of the god, produces by its offerings an abundant revenue for the maintenance of priestly luxury.
The holiest of the priests preside over and encourage the pious sins of these wanton mysteries. Odoriferous oils flow from the limbs of the deity to be adored, and wreaths of flowers decorate his form. The troops of dancing girls, married to the god, and worthy of him, exhibit themselves in the area of the temple, diffusing and glowing with licentiousness, and displaying the symmetry of their slender and fascinating forms in the varied attitudes of elaborate seduction.
The Bacchanals, exhibited with so much elegance in antient paintings and bas-reliefs, afford an im-.. perfect representation of these accomplished wantons. Their dress admirably comports with their manners and their profession. Sometimes, like the Persian, they appear in light trowsers of fine gauze, and sometimes they assume the jama of wrought muslin, or of gold and silver tissue, so flowing and transparent as neither to impede the vivacity of their movements, nor to conceal the beauties over which they are cast. Their long dark hair descends on their shoulders in luxuriant plaits; and their ankles are adorned with splendid rings, to which small bells of silver are occasionally attached, in order to mark and regulate, by their tinkling sounds, the movements of the dance. Thus decorated and thus beautiful, they court the admiration and kindle the passions of the beholding
crowd, by the melody of their voice, the voluptuousness of their hymns, and the meretricious scandal of their air and attitudes. The scene advances in licence till it ends in excess. The female ministrants learn to burn with the same fires which they communicate; the priest sanctions the orgies suited to such a theatre and such a devotion; and the rites and festivities of the worship, become the shame, the reproach, and the degradation of the worshipper *.
A devotion such as these pages have exhibited, demands no comment. Corrupt in principle and impure in practice, it pervades and vitiates the great mass of society. In the most gentle people of the earth, it occasionally kindles, by its observances, the most ferocious passions, and the most licentious desires. It converts the temple of devotion into a scene of wantonness or of blood; and the prayers, the sacrifices, and the oblations which it requires, are such only as could be tolerated by the most abject and slavish superstition, or be tendered to the most malignant and dissolutè of gods.
Incidental purity and spirituality of the worship taught or required
by the Koran-The partiality of God to the Mussulman--Consequent fanaticism and presumption — The most acceptable offering, the blood of the infidel-Processions, fasts, pilgrimages, and purifications, necessary to appease God, and qualify the worshipper for paradise — The worship, in its general character, injurious to the
moral and social temper of man. THE superstructure of the Koran is a mighty mass of truth and falsehood. Though the edifice bears the marks of no common hand, the skill of the architect was frequently governed, as we have seen, by policy and passion; and the grandeur and the beauty which sometimes demand and deserve applause, are contrasted by meannesses and incon: sistencies, which alike attest incongruity in the design or inability in the execution.
* Appendix. Note F. F.
On the subject of worship the prophet has betrayed similar inconsistency. The noble ideas of God and Providence which he so often, and with such magnificence of language, communicates to his followers, might have been sufficient to suggest the necessity of a pure and spiritual devotion. But those ideas were intermingled with others of a very different character; and a contradictory creed must issue into contrary effects. When the disciple of the Koran falls down before “ the High and the Mighty One who created and who governs the universe,” he may pour forth the aspirations which are due to the father and sovereign of nature. But what must be his prayer when he addresses a Deity who has consecrated, by his word, the sword of extermination, and sent forth his prophet, and his prophet's armies, to deluge the world with the blood of the infidel ! A Being merciful to the few, and cruel to the many, will be contemplated and worshipped with conflicting impressions; and the God who, while be opens his paradise to the sect of the faithful, avows his delight in the overthrow and persecution of the rest of mankind, will be honoured or insulted by the mingled adoration of grateful reverence and fanatic fury.
The best offering, according to the Koran, which can be tendered to the Almighty, is the blood of the enemies of “ the last and most holy of the prophets;" and the best prayers which ascend to the Deity are the supplications of the faithful for the overthrow of the unbelievers. “ God is merciful and just ;" but his justice and mercy are the holy and exclusive heritage of the elected Islem.
“ God is the parent “ of mankind;" but the professor of the Koran is the child of his love, and the champion of his creed, who is to pursue the disciples of every other religion with interminable war *. Under the influence of these persuasions the Mussulman approaches the temple of the Divinity. His belief governs his prayers. He brings to the altar a spirit narrowed in its benevolence to a sect, extending in its ferocity to the world; and, blending the haughty consciousness of the exclusive favour of heaven, with the holy detestation of the rejected and excommunicated infidel, he pours his aspirations in the exclusive vanity of his heart. “ Thou art praised by the earth, and “ all that therein is, neither is there any thing “ which doth not celebrate thy praise ; thou shalt “ make the unbeliever to tremble, and shalt leave “ him no refuge, and shall take him from a near “ place t; and a devil shall be chained unto him, “ and be his inseparable companion ; and verily an “ evil mercy shall be unto him. But be merciful
unto me, O Lord, for I am turned unto thee, " I am a Moslem I."
The worship of the followers of the Prophet was not merely the homage of fanaticism. It was vitiated and encumbered by the absurdity of idle and contemptible forms, adopted in compliance with the prejudices and passions of local superstition. The artful adventurer who framed the Koran was necessarily to consult the temper of his idolatrous countrymen. The Arab would have disdained the proffered glories of paradise, if he had been required to purchase them at the expense of the rites and customs derived from the religion of his fathers. The observances and ceremonies, accordingly, which prescription had sanctifieel in his opinion, and of which his rude devotion was principally composed, were to be skilfully admitted into the worship required by the Koran ; and in every Sura communicated by the angelic Gabriel, we discover the most decided marks of this politick accommodation * The frivolous observances with which the imaginary deities of the Arabian tribes had been customarily adored, were engrafted on the worship of the true, eternal, and self-existing God. The minute ritual of fasts, processions, purifications, and pilgrimages, was required to be punctiliously observed by the orthodox votary. A failure in the mode, impaired the efficacy of the prayer; and internal reverence of the Deity was scarcely considered as more precious in the sight of God than external observances, or better adapted to qualify the worshipper for a participation of the high privileges and exquisite enjoyments of the paradise of the blessed.
* The language uttered in almost every page of the Koran.
+ That is, say the expositors, “ from the outside of the earth to the inside thereof; or from God's tribunal to hell fire; or from the plain of Beda to the well in which the dead bodies were thrown.” Kor. ch. xxxiv. vol. ii. p. 294; and Note in loco.
[ Kor. ch. xvii. p. 101. ch. xlvi. v. ii. PP: 302, 303
* In admitting so many relics of idolatrous superstition into his system, Mahomet paid an artful preference to the prejudices and observances of his countrymen, which they would probably have refused to renounce, and which his policy and interest did not permit him to resist. Sale, Prel. Disc. sect. iv. pp. 162, 182. Did the learned translator of the Koran intend, by this remark, to vin. dicate the impostor?