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Again he speaks of the magical power of the almanac (De Groot, p. 53): “No house in China may be without a copy of the almanac, or without at least its title-page in miniature, printed on purpose with one or two leaves affixed, as a charm, in accordance with the pars pro toto principle, and sold in shops for one coin or cash. These charms are deposited in beds, in corners and cupboards, and such like places, and worn on the body; and no bride passing from her paternal home into that of her bridegroom may omit the titlepage among the exorcising objects with which her pocket is for that occasion filled.”
Portions of the Koran are lithographed in colors and sold for the same purposes in Cairo, Bombay, Singapore and Madras. The fantastic combinations of Arabic script and the intaglio of the design make the charm all the more potent. Men cannot decipher it, but demons can.
In the use of the Rosary (Subha) and its gradual spread throughout the world of Islam we also find evidence of Animistic superstition. According to Dr. Goldziher: “It is generally admitted that the use of the rosary, which was imported into Islam, was not adopted by the disciples of Mohammed until the third century of the Hegira (622 A. D.). The following story can, at any rate, be cited in this connection. When the Abbaside Khalif, Al-Hadi (169–170 of the Hegira) forbade his mother Chejzuran, who tried to exercise her influence in political affairs, to take part in the affairs of state, he used the following words: “It is not a woman’s business to meddle with the affairs of state; you should occupy your time with your prayers and your subha.” From this it seems certain that in that century the use of the subha as an instrument of devotion was common only among the inferior classes and had no place among the learned. When a rosary was found in the possession of a certain pious saint, Abu-l-Kasim al-Junaid, who died in 297 of the Hegira, they attacked him for using it, although he belonged to the best society. “I cannot give up,” said he, “a thing that serves to bring me nearer to God.” This tradition furnishes us with rare facts since it shows us on the one hand that in the social sphere the use of the rosary was common even among the higher classes; and on the other hand that the strict disciples of Mohammed looked on this foreign innovation which was patronized by saints and pious men, with displeasure. To them it was bia’a that is, an innovation without foundation in the old Islamic sunna, and was consequently bound to stir a distrust among the orthodox. Even later on, when the use of the rosary had for long ceased to provoke discontent in the orthodox Moslems, the controversialists, whose principle was to attack all “innovations,” still distrusted any exaggerations in the usage of this practice. But like a great many things that were not tolerated at the beginning under religious forms, the rosary introduced itself from private religious life to the very heart of the mosques. Abu Abdullah Mohammed al-'Abdari, who died 737 A.H., wrote a work of three volumes called “Al-Madkhal,” which contains a lot of interesting matter on the intimate life of Islamic society, their superstitions and their popular customs, and should be studied by all who are interested in the history and civilization of the Mohammedan Orient. “Among the innovations,” writes al-'Abdari, “the rosary is to be noted. A special box is made where it is kept; a salary is fixed for Some one to guard and keep it, and for those who use it for Zikr. . . . A special Sheikh is appointed for it, with the title of Sheikh al-Subha, and with him a servant with the title of Khadim al-Subha. These innovations are quite modern. It is the duty of the imam of the mosque to suppress such customs as it is in his power to do so.” “The appearance of the rosary,” says Goldziher, to quote again from his paper, “and the way in which it had been adopted by the faithful of the Sunna, did not pass unperceived by the Hadith. I believe that the following story which we read in the book called ‘Sunan,’ written in the third century, has to do with the entrance of the rosary: “‘’Al-Hakam b. al-Mubarak relates on the authority of 'Amr b. Jahja, who had heard it from his father, and who in his turn had heard from his father: we were sitting before the door of 'Abdallah b. Masud, before the morning prayer, for we were in the habit of going to the mosque in his company. One day we encountered Abu Musa al-Ash'ari . . . and very soon Abu 'Abd al-Rahman came in his turn. Then Abu Musa said: “In former times, O Abu Rahman, I saw in the mosque things that I did not approve of; but now, thank God, I see nothing but good.” “What do you mean by that?” said the other. “If you live long enough,” answered Abu Musa, “ you will know. I have seen in the mosque, people who sat round in circles (kauman hilakan) awaiting the moment of Salat. Each group was presided over by a man and they held in their hands small stones. The president said to them: “Repeat 100 Takbir!” and for one hundred times they recited the formula of the Takbir. Then he used to tell them: “Repeat 100 Tahlill’.” And they recited the formula of Tahlil for one hundred times. Then he told them also: “Repeat 100 times the Tasbihl' * And the persons who were in the group equally went through this exhortation also.” Then Abu 'Abd al-Rahman asked: “What did'st thou say when thou sawest these things?” “Nothing,” answered Abu Musa, “ because I first wanted to find out your view and your orders.” “Did you not tell them that it would have been more profitable for them to have kept account of their sins and did you not tell them that their good actions would not have been in vain?” So we together repaired to the mosque and we soon came across one of these groups. He stopped before them and said: “What do you here?” “We have here,” they answered, “small stones which help us to count the Takbir, the Tahlil and the Tasbih, which we recite.” But he answered them in these terms: “Sooner count your sins and nothing will be lost of your good works. Woe to thee, O community of Mohammed ! with what haste you are going toward damnation? Here are also in great numbers, companions of your Prophet? look at these garments which are not covered with dust, these vessels that are not yet broken; verily by him who holds my soul in his hands, your religion can lead you better than the contemporaries of Mohammed; will you not at least open the door of wrong?” “By Allah, O Abu 'Abd al-Rahman,” they cried, “we mean but to do right !” And he answered them: “There are many who pretend to do right, but who cannot get at it, it is to them that the word of the Prophet applies: There are of those who read the Roran, but deny its teaching, and I swear it by God, I doubt whether the majority of these people are not among yourselves.” ”” Other traditions show us the prophet protesting regarding some faithful women against their using these small stones when reciting the litanies just mentioned and recommending the use of the fingers when counting their prayers. “Let them count their prayers on their fingers (ja'kidna bil anamil); for an account will be taken of them.” All these insinuations found in traditions invented for the purpose, denote a disapprobation of the use of the rosary, at the moment of its appearance. The use of small stones in the litanies was, it seems, an original form of the subha, very much like the later use of the rosary. It is said of Abu Huraira that he recited the Tasbih in his house by the aid of small stones which he kept in a purse (jusabbih biha). Let us also mention the severe words of Abdallah, son of the Rhalif Omar, which he addressed to a person who rattled his stones in his hands during prayer (juharrik al-Hasa Bijedihi), “Do not do that, for that is prompted by the devil.” Were not the litanies ever counted in this way before the rosary was introduced ? One cannot be sure. Anyway, it seems very probable that the traditions against this custom date from the time when the rosary was introduced into Islam. The Tibetan Buddhists, long before the Christian Era, used strings of beads, generally 108 in number and made of jewels, sandal-wood, mussel-shells, and the like, according to the status of their owners. Whether Islam adopted the rosary from India during the Moslem conquest is uncertain, but not improbable. Regarding the Christian use of the rosary we read: “The custom of repeatedly reciting the Our Father arose in the monastic life of Egypt at an early time, being recorded by Palladius and Sozomen. The Hail Mary or Ave Maria, on the other hand, first became a regular prayer in the second half of the eleventh century, though it was not until about the thirteenth century that it was generally adopted. The addition of the words of Elizabeth, ‘blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus’ (Luke 1:42), and the Angelical Salutation, “Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women’ (Luke 1: 28), is first mentioned about 1130; but Bishop Odo of Paris (1196–1208) requires the recitation of Hail Mary together with the Our Father and the Creed as a regular Christian custom. The closing petition, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death,’ developed gradually in the sixteenth century, and was regarded even by the council of
6 Takbir—to repeat Allahu Akbar, God is great. 7 Tahlil — to repeat La ilaha illa Allah — (The Creed). 8 Tasbih — to repeat Subham Allah, God be praised.