Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia:
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Approach of Nowrooz – Dunning derveeshes – Ceremonial of the Nowrooz – Her Majesty's birthday – Entertainment to Persians – Wines of Sheeraz and Ispahan – Dinner on a large scale – Migration to the hills – Value of water – Our encampment – The Mission village – Sanctuary – Miraculous cow – Refugees in the Missions – Civil and criminal law.
March 10th. – NOWROOZ
(New Year's Day) is approaching. Colonel S— wished to-day to visit the Prime Minister, but he was informed that his Excellency was busily engaged in selecting shawls. The Shah on the 22nd of this month bestows on all his courtiers some mark of his bounty: Cashmere shawls to those of high rank; descending thence in a sliding-scale to cloth coats and spangled muslin. It is a heavy tax on his Majesty, who, however, it may be conjectured, finds compensation elsewhere. Though the splendour of the Nowrooz has decayed, and the value of the gifts has decreased, the total abrogation of this ancient national festival would scarcely be politic. It is a season of general festivity. The Persians have been more rational than we in this matter. Instead of choosing the winter solstice for its celebration, they have selected the moment when the sun is entering the northern hemisphere for marking the commencement of the year. On the 22nd of March every family, attired in new garments, is seated at the dinner-cloth (there being no
table), which is covered with food, according to the means of the master of the household. A large basin of water is placed in the centre, which, when the sun crosses the equator, is supposed to be ruffled by the jerk the earth receives in consequence. At that moment they all embrace and wish each other a happy new year; they then partake of food. There is a simplicity and appearance of affection in this ceremony at variance with the character of Persians.
About this time I was crossing one day to the garden on the other side of the street, when I heard a loud voice exclaim, "Hoo; Allāh Tâālā; Khoodā Vezeer e Mookhtarpaëdar kooned, khoodā khānumra omrdihed!" (He is the great God; God preserve the Vezeer Mookhtar; God preserve the Khanum!) These were the sounds uttered by a wild-looking derveesh, seated in a tent four feet high, and the same in length, which was pitched under the garden wall. By his side he had sown a field of wheat, about a yard square, as a hint, that if he were not removed by a consideration, he would remain until the wheat was fit for the sickle and cut; screaming "Hoo, hak" incessantly, and blowing on his cow's horn. But our derveesh was too friendly and polite for any such extremities. It turned out that this was a tax annually levied on the respectable householders of Tehran. I saw another of the fraternity at the Russian Minister's door, and various others encamped at the houses of the people of the city, each with his field of wheat. They get their presents, and then depart. I am told that a few years ago there was one of this brotherhood, named Lootee Ali, Buffoon Ali, or Derveesh Ali, who used to bestow in the
utmost good humour the most dreadful abuse on every one he met, from the Shah, with whom he was a great favourite, downwards. He gained a great deal of money, which he spent entirely in charity. Their pertinacity in extortion is said to be marvellous. I remember hearing of a very mad, opium-eating, chers- or bang-consuming derveesh, who demanded a large sum from the English Resident at Bushire, which the latter refused. The holy brother said nothing, but looked iniquity. He planted himself at the gate, and planted the wheat too, close under the staff where the English flag used to fly. For three days he remained silent. On the fourth he exclaimed, "Hak, hak," in a loud monotonous voice, and maintained that cry almost incessantly day and night, for three days, without any symptom of yielding on either side. I ought to remark, that to use violence for his expulsion would have been injudicious. On the fourth day the derveesh drew forth his horn, and, alternating between it and the everlasting "Hak, hak!" the Resident was reduced to despair, and almost to yielding. At last he remembered that his flagstaff required washing. In a short time ten or fifteen seamen, summoned from a man-of-war in the roads, were mounted on the flagstaff, with an abundant supply of buckets of water. In a few minutes the flagstaff was well washed, and the derveesh too, and put to flight in discomfiture.
March 22, Nowrooz. – Every one in new garments to-day. The whole of the servants of the Mission, some sixty or seventy in number, arrayed in large new cloaks of English cloth – so called at least, having English stamps and marks on it, though shrewdly suspected not to be of
English parentage. They looked exceedingly well. At nine o'clock one of the staff of the Foreign Office, conducting some twenty ferashes laden with immense trays containing sugarloaves, sugarcandy, and sweetmeats, presented himself to offer the good wishes of the Shah for the coming year. At noon all the Missions waited on his Majesty, to offer congratulations on the part of their sovereigns. As they had a private audience for this purpose previously to the grand salām or levee, there is little to describe. His Majesty is seated in full costume, half Persian, half European, loaded with the most costly jewellery, his enormous jewelled crown, and sword blazing with diamonds from hilt to point, lying by his side, waiting for the admission of the public before undergoing the fatigue of bearing the weighty diadem. As his Majesty is in the highest degree affable and condescending, and abounds in agreeable conversation, as a Persian king ought to do, half his life being spent in talking, the audience passes off highly satisfactorily. In the afternoon a fine elephant belonging to the king, accompanied by his keeper and some musicians, came to wish us a happy new year. He entered the low gateway into the lawn on his knees, and performed sundry evolutions; he then got his present, and went away. The day after Nowrooz the labour of the season began, and continued for a week subsequently. Every acquaintance of the Minister of suitable rank must be visited; the days are spent in visits, and every visit produces its deluge of tea, coffee, and pipes (water pipes). Then come the bazdeed, the return visits, with a repetition of the same sufferings. Altogether a good constitution is requisite; but, as
my husband used to maintain, it was necessary to do something once a year for the good of her Majesty's service.
Now begins the glorious weather of Persia, lasting until the middle of May, when it becomes a great deal too hot. In April the nightingales commence their songs, and the rose-trees begin to open their blossoms. Our garden abounded in the former, who used to beguile the entire night with their minstrelsy. But I leave these things to the imagination, which is much more potent than the pen – than mine at least.
May 24th. – This was another day of fatigue, in tea and coffee drinking, in honour of her Majesty's birthday. From an early hour visitors poured in to offer their congratulations, and among them two officers in full court costume, on the part of the Shah and the Prime Minister, to convey their congratulations on the auspicious occasion. In the full-dress of the court, the tall black lambskin cap is changed for a turban of shawl; and in place of the stockings without shoes, on entering the room a pair of red cloth boots reaching to the knee is worn. I suppose the latter is a substitute for the heavy Tartar boot worn at the courts of the Moghul sovereigns. It was upon me, however, that the heavier toil of the day fell. At night there was a dinner-party of thirty-six persons to celebrate the event, and wish prosperity to the sovereign of England. When it is considered that the attendants were all Persians, and that everything is conducted as like Europe as possible, it may be imagined what time and labour were expended in drilling the Diggories of the Mission. The labour was certainly great, yet I never was reduced to such extremity as a lady in Tehran, who was on such
occasions forced to aid in dressing the dinner herself. Twelve of the guests were Persian gentlemen; and as in Persian estimation a solemn dinner is incomplete unless the fare is exceedingly in excess; and farther, as the numerous retinue of servants accompanying each Persian expects a share in the feast, it may be imagined what an undertaking an entertainment of this kind is in Tehran. To complete the matter, I was excluded from the banquet in consequence of the presence of the Persian gentlemen. I gladly, therefore, spent my solitary evening, resting after the heat and toil of the day, shut up in my anderoon, surrounded by a retinue of dogs, who would not have been more out of place than myself, and who were greatly disturbed by the distant sounds of the band playing God save the Queen, which it continued to do for four or five hours, only varying occasionally with the beautiful Russian air of God preserve the Emperor. It was really amusing to see the deference these dogs showed poor Crab. Greyhounds, pointers, &c., would fall flat when he sprang at them, if he thought they monopolised too much of my attention. There was one rugged fellow we called Diver, who arrived from Asterabad with some European travellers. He approved apparently of our mode of living, for he hid himself in an empty room in the Mission for two days after their departure, and remained with us ever since. One of the gentlemen of the Mission afterwards happened to visit Asterabad, and saw a numerous independent connexion of Diver's, who supported themselves by going into the sea and eating the small fish they managed to catch. I should perhaps apologise for writing at all about our dogs, but they were so much of companions to me in Persia, I cannot avoid
recurring to them. To return to the banquet; it was kept up till a late hour. Persians, I am told, delight in champagne, next to brandy. On these public occasions, however, the most confirmed topers refrain from touching wine, lest in a promiscuous assembly of their countrymen their reputation might suffer damage from evil report. But I hear that some among them retired to a quiet nook with one or two trusty boon companions –
"They had been fou for weeks thegither" –where they made amends by quaffing champagne and sherry in tumblers.
Persians are extremely fond of European wines, still none among them, even the richest, are willing to undergo the expense of its conveyance from Europe. They satisfy themselves with the thin growths of their own vineyards, quantity compensating for quality. In almost all the chief towns a great deal of wine is manufactured, and certainly not intended for the sole consumption of Armenians. That of Sheeraz has, of course, a wide reputation, and the wine of Ispahan is thought not much inferior. I remember an Englishman imposing with success as choice Burgundy, a bottle of the latter on a party of European connoisseurs. Still I am told the wines of Persia are far from being wholesome, either from imperfect manufacture, or from being used too soon. There seems to be no reason why a country abounding in the choicest grapes should be unable to produce good wine. The manufacture is of the coarsest kind, and, one would think, an antidote to excess. The bunches are collected without any selection, or the removal of the unsound grapes, and
thrown into a heap, stalks and all, and the juice is extracted by the pressure of naked feet.
On the birthday of their sovereigns, the foreign representatives endeavour to celebrate the occasion with as much display as the country admits of. An exhibition of fireworks was generally the mode in which the Russian Mission sought notoriety. Some years ago, before my arrival in Persia, my husband thought of a somewhat novel expedient for imparting celebrity to her Majesty's birthday. This was to give a dinner to all the beggars in Tehran on the 24th of May. It appears to have been an extraordinary scene, as described to me by one of the gentlemen of the Mission. The feast was put under the management of one of the Persian secretaries. He caused a number of large tents, without their walls, to be pitched in a spacious piece of ground adjoining the garden, where the horses used to be exercised. He then hired a number of cooks, and a collection of enormous cauldrons, five or six feet wide, and the same in depth; which were placed on blazing fires close to the tents. Something like a flock of sheep was purchased. Notice was sent to the beggars, that at twelve o'clock on the 24th dinner would be ready. Long before the time every avenue was crowded with the blind, the lame, the infirm, and the various extraordinary objects with which Tehran is crowded. The gates were opened, a rush was made, and in a moment the enclosure was filled. The dinner consisted of pillaos of mutton and rice, bread, and sugar sherbet, that is, eau sucrée; and the rule was, that each person, having eaten to repletion, was to depart by another gate. Nothing could exceed the confusion and contention and clamours
for admittance. The walls were scaled, and the gates nearly burst open. The uproar was compared to a town taken by assault. Those inside, the women especially, filled their pockets, and said they had not had enough; and when driven out at one gate, they went round and entered as fresh visitors at the other, making a new attack on the eatables. The dinner-party to the beggars was converted into an entertainment to all the workmen and small tradesmen and tradeswomen in the neighbourhood. So great and unexpected was the crowd, that the supplies ran low, and purchases were obliged to be made at the cook-shops in the bazar. All were at length filled, and the crowd by slow degrees departed. Seven thousand was the number, according to Persian computation, which by English calculation may be reduced to less than half. The feast had certainly reached an unexpected magnitude, but the object aimed at was, I conjecture gained, for a great sensation was produced. If Persian benedictions could serve her Majesty, she had them to satiety from each guest who partook of the pillaos. The succeeding year the feast was renewed, with the precaution of placing a strong guard of soldiers at each gate, and another in the middle of the enclosure.
May 25th. – Notwithstanding that we are more than three thousand feet above the level of the sea, the sun's rays have acquired intense heat, and it is time to make an exodus to the mountains, which our great dinner alone prevented us from doing before. The Shah, with a large portion of the court, has already left the city, and gone to reside in one of his summer or garden houses, near the walls, and by-and-by he will move up
to the mountains. Next month nearly half the inhabitants will have emigrated to avoid the heat and the unhealthy atmosphere of Tehran. This capital has nothing whatever in its favour. It is situated in a desolate plain, ten miles to the south of the Elboorz range of mountains, which run from west to east. It is supposed to contain 80,000 inhabitants in winter. The above beautiful range of mountains, crowned with the magnificent peak of Demawend, saves Tehran from being one of the most frightful places in the world. It contains fine bazars, constructed by the late Prime Minister, and a good deal of trade converges here from the four quarters of Persia. There are no buildings of note, excepting the chief mosque, and water is so bad and so scarce, that the portion required for drinking is brought daily from a distance by all those who can afford it.
May 27th. – We had to-day a specimen of the value of water in Persia. The two Gebr gardeners, with three Persian soldiers of the guard at the gate of the Mission, rushed towards the room we were sitting in. One of the former had a large bunch of his beard in his hand, which he stretched out at arm's length. One of the soldiers held a handkerchief to his mouth, as if indicating the loss of a tooth, and all had their shirts and inner vests torn open at the neck, which among Persians is an unfailing sign of woe, as among the Israelites of old. The Gebrs are a stolid immoveable race, but this was an opportunity for emotion not to be neglected. The Father of the beard, as an Arab would say, Ardesheer, was spokesman: "Kooshteh shudem, moordem! – I am killed, I am dead! Is this the way to treat the Vezeer e Mookhtar's
gardener?" &c. Tehran is dependent for its supply of water, in part on wells, of which the water is exceedingly bad and unwholesome, and in part on various kanāts which have been conducted into the city. Two days and two nights of each week are allotted for supplying the extensive gardens and premises of the Mission with water from one of these kanāts. But as the stream enters on the north side of the city, while we resided exactly at the south side, it has to pass through the ordeal of a mile and a half among thirsty Tehranees before it reaches the Mission. It is consequently necessary to station guards at intervals to watch its safe progress through the town. All sorts of schemes are in request to waylay the water. When a watchman is absent, or remiss, or bribed, the stream is turned out of its course, and every one helps himself or fills his cistern. At another time everything seems correct; no impediment occurs to the water, yet none of it reaches the Mission. The cunning Iranees have bored channels underground from their houses to the stream, and thus purloined nearly the whole of the water. Knowing the urgent wants of the citizens, these peculations would have been overlooked; but very often, as in the present instance, the theft was supported by main force, leading to blows, and a battle, in which the Mission guards and servants, being the weaker party, generally fared ill. Then followed demands for punishment, in exacting which it was necessary to be pertinacious, if only to save her Majesty's Mission from dying of thirst. What made these beatings of the servants more provoking was the donation in free gift to the citizens by Colonel S— of the whole of the water to
which he was entitled by right. He even nominated a meerāb, lord of the water, to superintend its fair distribution through the different streets. For my part, I believe that this dignified appointment only led to the enrichment of his lordship, who sold the water to the best bidder; he would be a strange Persian if he did not. As I before mentioned, the villagers contend for the possession of streams of water in the same manner, but with much more fierceness; their crops being often dependent for irrigation on the result of the combat. These kanāts lead to other causes of quarrel. If a man in authority who has constructed one of these beneficent works happens to lead his kanāt in the direction of that of his weaker neighbour, his charitable views become so comprehensive, that he seldom hesitates to undermine and carry off the whole of the water into his own channel. A fight follows, either on the spot or before the Kazee, in both cases the result being much the same.
May 29th. – We have encamped at the Mission village of Goolahek, seven miles from town, near the foot of Elboorz, and 3800 feet above the level of the sea. Ours is certainly a camp on a large scale. We have sleeping-tents, nursery-tents, and my private sitting-room-tent, all enclosed in a high wall of canvas, and forming the anderoon. Then detached are the dining-tent, drawing-room-tent, and tents for each of the gentlemen of the Mission. To me it looks very magnificent, yet I am told it is paltry in comparison with the good old times that are gone. From the size of these tents, some of them being thirty feet in length, their double roofs and double walls several feet apart, I had anticipated a comfortable
residence during the summer. But I am disappointed beyond measure; the dust and the heat being intolerable, in spite of a stream of water which I had caused to flow through my tent. The Russian Mission is encamped at another village, half a mile distant. The Shah has moved up to his summer-palace at Niaveran, close under the hills, and the whole country is covered with white tents and encampments. We are now in the district of Shamirān, which, I am told, is the equivalent of Semiramis. The villages are surrounded with fruit-trees of every description, particularly white mulberries, of which the Persians eat enormous quantities: indeed their consumption of every kind of fruit is prodigious. The camp-life is still more monotonous than that of the town; the distances being much greater, visits and gossip are rarer. It is a curious circumstance that from nine to ten in the morning seems to be the hottest part of the day, hotter even than two o'clock. The heat is so intense that it is impossible to move out until the sun has actually set, and even then the ground is reeking with heat. At that hour we mount our horses, and take a slow languid ride about the hills and villages. Darkness so quickly follows sunset that the ride is a short one. Walking is out of the question. Decidedly Persia is not a country to select as a residence from choice. Neither can it be healthy; for though the natives are strong and stout, as negroes are in the most pestiferous swamps of Africa, still one sees extremely few persons of very advanced years. Nearly all the Europeans at Tehran seem delicate; the Russians appear to bear the climate best, though they are said to take less care of their health.
The term Mission-village deserves some explanation. It means that the Shah has bestowed the "teeool" of the village on the Mission; this again implies that his Majesty has renounced his claim over the revenue, and bestowed it on the British legation. The revenue amounts to 30 tomans, or 15l., but the donation confers considerable authority on the British Minister, who thereby becomes lord paramount in the village. It entitles him to claim a piece of land for pitching his camp, and confers many immunities according to Persian usage. On the other hand, the benefit to the villagers is immense. No tax-gatherers molest them, no soldiers are quartered on them, no levies of provisions are exacted; they are under English protection, and are thereby safe from molestation. The consequence is that the village is most flourishing, the value of its land has increased, and many people build houses within it merely to enjoy similar privileges.
This system of teeool is one of the great banes of Persia. Its evil is admitted, but too many interests are concerned in its maintenance to permit its abrogation even by the despotic monarch of Persia. Custom has given the owner of the teeool exclusive rights over eggs, fowls, lambs, firewood, fodder, fruit, &c., and, if he chances to be a man of rank, he takes care that custom shall have the amplest latitude. In our own case, however, I found it of very little profit, and my dream of abundance of fresh eggs was soon dissipated. The Persian peasant is perhaps the best part of the nation, but oppression has made him callous, and not very sensible to emotions of gratitude. We were, therefore, welcome
visitors, prices were doubled, and a present for the celebration of the Tazeea, with an English cloth cloak at Nowrooz for the Ked Khoda, or chief of the village, were the incumbrances charged upon our fief.
June 3rd. – One is often reminded in this country of the state of manners in Europe some centuries ago, when armies consisted of feudal retainers, when power took the place of law, when might made right. Sanctuary in shrines is still in full operation in Persia; and though often an evil, it is on the whole, as it was in Europe in those days, a vast benefit. Where the law is weak and the administration corrupt, society requires some extraneous support independent of both. The guilty, it is true, sometimes escape, but the innocent and weak are often protected. A struggle between the government and the priesthood relative to the right of asylum in shrines, mosques, and other places of sanctity, has been long going on; one party seeking its overthrow, the other its maintenance for the preservation of their own influence over the people. Intelligence has just arrived from Tabreez of an extraordinary device adopted by the moollas of that city for restoring the right of bast, or sanctuary, to its ancient vigour. A cow being conducted to the slaughterhouse, in passing by a noted shrine in the middle of the city, twice took refuge in the holy spot. On the third repetition of the disregard of this appeal to the power of the defunct saint, the butcher was struck dead. How this portion of the miracle was effected I know not. The news spread in a moment through the city, and all the zeal of the Moslems was roused. In general it finds a vent in
the pillage of the Armenians or the Jews; but on this occasion it took a different direction. Miracles in abundance were performed. The blind saw, the lame walked, maladies innumerable were healed. A pitch of enthusiasm was raised which was described to be "frightful." Illuminations on an unheard-of scale took place during three successive nights; the shrine was exalted into an inviolable sanctuary, and gamblers and drunkards who should dishonour its precincts were to be slain. But the government was strong in the hands of the Ameer e Nizam, the Prime Minister. I may as well now anticipate events, and mention that, before many months had elapsed, some of the principal instigators of these prodigies were brought to Tehran, where they remained in much discomfort, and were only released on promising to work no more miracles: –
De par le Roi défense à Dieu,
De faire miracle dans ce lieu.
The foreign Missions are inviolable asylums; no one can be molested within their walls. Bahman Meerza, the Shah's uncle, and governor of the valuable province of Azerbijan, took refuge in the Russian Mission. The sequel of this step was his transmission to Russia as the guest of the Emperor, where he now enjoys a large pension; still he pines for Persia and pillao.
The Shah's stable is an asylum, almost against the Shah himself. Unless in an extraordinary case, his Majesty would not like to use force in the removal of a person who had thus thrown himself on his protection or on his mercy. The reason of the stable having this sanctity conferred on
it seems lost in antiquity. In passing among the trees where our horses were picketed, I was surprised to see seated there a Persian gentleman, on approaching whom, I perceived him to be perfectly blind, his eyes having been removed from the sockets. On ascertaining that we were near him, he stood up and loudly claimed the protection of the Dowlet Aaleeya Inglees, the sublime English Government. I forget this gentleman's name, whose condition and striking appearance greatly engaged my sympathy. He was a khan, and chief of a tribe in Kermān or Yezd, and he and his family were among the most atrocious criminals in Persia. The murders and acts of violence committed by him and his sons exceeded belief. In retribution, he himself had been blinded, and two of the latter had been put to death. Even this did not cure his turbulence. He had lately committed some new act of atrocity, and fearing the consequences, had fled for safety to our stable, with the hope also of obtaining English intercession. His pitiable condition prevented an order for his immediate expulsion, which would have been considered discreditable; so the khan was left to manage matters as he could. Finding himself disappointed, he in a few days withdrew; having no doubt applied a bribe in the proper quarter, and secured impunity for his misdeeds. In town, criminals used often to take refuge in the Mission. To deliver them to justice would have brought on the Mission bud nāmee, or bad reputation – a subject to which, curiously enough, Persians constantly advert; so at night they are ordered to depart, and seek for safety at some other shrine than that of the
sovereign of England. I have seen it necessary to use considerable force on such occasions, and loud screams of Amān e Padshah Inglees! Amān e Vezeer Mookhtar! Amān Khanum! Amān Sahib e Koochik! (Quarter from the Queen! Quarter from the Minister! Quarter from the lady! Quarter from the little gentleman!-meaning my son of a few months old) have reached my anderoon. Persians of all classes used to take asylum. Slaves escaping from the cruelty of their masters were often to be seen. These were undoubted objects of commiseration. After allowing them to remain some days, until anger had cooled, a reconciliation was effected to the satisfaction of all concerned; a solemn promise being exacted that no repetition of ill treatment was to occur. The promise would certainly be faithfully kept during some months. Princes, khans, military officers, might at times be seen taking refuge within the Mission walls. The culpable among these, such as embezzlers of public money, fraudulent bankers, oppressors, were invited to withdraw without delay; while the victims of tyranny and violence were allowed to remain until an opportunity occurred for an amicable arrangement of their affairs by reconciliation, compromise, or some other mode. I used to take a warm interest in these details; and as such things were constantly happening, they made living in my anderoon in Teheran less monotonous than I at first found it. For though, as a woman, I was in Persia every moment reminded by some trifling incident or other of the degraded position of my sex in the East, yet I was content with the reflection of the high estimation in which my
husband's name was held; when his word was as valid as the most formal document, and when the name of Englishman was respected from Bushire to the Aras.
In Persia there is nominally a code of laws; in reality there is none. Impulse, passion, corruption, expediency, power, are the real dispensers of the law, the real arbiters of right and wrong. In such a state of society, the practice of asylum may be considered a blessing. It is the right of appeal of innocence and weakness against tyranny. The Koran does, of course, provide a code, however imperfect, for the administration of justice. But it refers chiefly to criminal cases – the law of retaliation, blood for blood, an eye for an eye. In practice, nevertheless, the administrators of the criminal law pay little regard to the ordinances of the Koran. The bastinado and a fine are the sovereign remedies for all degrees of guilt, varied occasionally with amputation of the hand or the head. The innumerable commentators of the Koran have not neglected to provide it with a most ample civil code, which is administered by the dignitaries among the Mahommedan priesthood – the kazees, moollas, moojteheds, sheikh-ool-Islams, &c. They, however, only pronounce the law: the execution of it rests with the officers of Government. From this double mode of administration some conception may be formed of the tide of corruption the plaintiff and defendant have to encounter. As, however, it is the constant aim of the Government to control the jurisdiction and influence of the clergy, it has, within a recent period, established Courts of Justice, in which a large share of civil jurisprudence is conducted. I have
not heard that any improvement in integrity has been the result of this innovation.
In all the large cities of Persia there are moojteheds, or moollas of high degree, of unimpeachable integrity, who receive the highest veneration from the people. Some among them are so scrupulous that they refuse to pronounce the decrees of the law, lest perchance they should be guilty of injustice.
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