143. Sects in Egypt.


Mr. Antes, in his Observations on the Egyptians, (p. 20) says, “The people are divided and called either Saad or Haram, somewhat in the same manner as the English into Whig and Tory. Though no animosity be observed between the parties yet any individual will immediately tell to what class this or that man belongs. I have for many years” he adds, “laboured to learn the origin of it, and have asked many hundred persons, but 272could never get a satisfactory answer, till shortly before I left Cairo, a person told me it originated from the death of Ali. When the party of Omar killed him they cried out Hadah nahar saad, which signifies, this is a lucky day the counter-party said Hadah haram — this is unlawful, or wrong. The circumstance of Ali’s death is not accurately alluded to here; but the fact is curious: for it thus appears that the Fatimite caliphs have left a race in Egypt, who retain their opinions, so far at least as to have obtained a name from them, and yet none of that animosity prevails which exists elsewhere between Shiahs and Sunnis. This is probably because the Mamaluke government caring for neither, though Sunni itself, has equally oppressed both.

Were I a Mahommedan I should certainly join so far with the Persians as to pronounce a malediction against the three first caliphs for interlopers. But the point of difference ought to have nothing to do with doctrine. The Shiahs 273have grafted upon it such extraordinary and extravagant notions of Ali that they verily fall under the denunciation of the koran against creature-worship.

Shah Abbas insisted upon it that Santiago could be no other person than Ali, whose history the Spaniards had corrupted, and that the sword which the knights of his order bore in their insignia was meant to represent Sulfagar; other christians, he said, called him St. George. Pietro della Valle ventured to remark that there were chronological and geographical objections to this hypothesis; but he did not think it prudent to press the argument.


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