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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/477

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MOHAMMEDAN


423


MOHAMMEDAN


upper part of the body which superinduces congestion of the cerebro-spinal system. Under the double in- fluence of this purely physical cause and the con- centration of all the intellectual faculties upon the same idea, that of the majestj' of God, the phenomena of religious hysteria are produced in many of the adepts. . . . They are much in evidence in the con- vents of the order" (p. 29). The founder had pre- scribed that the faithful should confine their recita- tion to "ha, turning the head to the right, hou, turning it to the left, hi, bowing it, and prolonging each sound as much as the breath permits. It is easy to imagine the effect that may be produced on the most soundly constituted temperament by the re- petition of these syllables accompanied with violent movements of the head" (ibid., p. 33). At the pres- ent time the Zaheriya go through the same move- ments with the formula. La Haha ill' Allah, spoken in one breath, and sometimes as often as twenty-one times without a respiration. The Sarehourdiya, founded in the thirteenth century, repeat an in- definite number of times without interruption the phrMe La ilaha, etc., while raising the head from the navel to the right shoulder, and thus they fall into a dumb state of unconsciousness. The Zaherij'a add the left shoulder. The Nakechabendiya some- times help the process with opium and similar drugs. Among the Beioumiya the body is bent, at each invocation, down to the waist, while the arms are crossed; they are uncrossed while the body is raised again, and then the hands are clapped together at the level of the face.

Some confraternities deserve special mention for the intense nervous paro.xysms attained by their members. First, among the Kheluoatiya, founded in the fourteenth century, the members from time to time retire into deep solitude (whence their name, from kheloua, retreat ) ; thus separated from the world, the disciple can communicate with others only by signs or in writing; he fasts from sunrise to sunset, and takes only such nourislmient as is strictly neces- sary. By the use of coffee, he reduces his sleep to two or three hours. He recites certain sacred words, such as Houa (Him), Qayyoum (Immutable), Haqq (Truth), which have to be repe.ated from 10,000 to 30,000 times a day, according to the directions of the initiator. "The upper eyelid is briskly pres.sed down on the lower, to produce a titillation in the organ of sight which acts on the optic nerve and, through it, on the cerebral system. . . . The word Qayyoum is recited, say, 20,000 times, while the disciple sways and bows the head, with closed eyes. The rapidity of repeti- tion cannot exceed once in every second, and the duration of such a prayer is from five to six hours. Supposing that the candidate is given three names to repeat in this way, it must take him eighteen hours a day. . . . The teachers of the order compare the Kheloua initiation to a deadly poison when taken in too large doses at first, and which can be assimilated by progressive use. . . . All the members who make frequent retreats, even if the duration is not pro- longed, are seriously affected in mind. Emaciated, haggard-eyed, they return to ordinary life still re- taining the traces of their harsh trials. . . . An ex- treme exaltation, then, is the characteristic of this order, and it, more than any other, must be regarded as the focus of an intense fanaticism" (ibid., 62 sqq.). Another very remarkable confraternity is that of the Aissaoua, founded in the fifteenth century by Sidi- Mohammed-ben-Aissa. The dikr takes the shape of raucous cries, "to the cadence of a muffled music in rapid time. Inclinations of the body down to the hips, increasing in rapidity, accompany each of these cries, or circular movements of the head, which are also calculated to shake the nervous system. The nervous crises thus superinduced are soon expressed in cerebral intoxication and anaesthesia variously lo-


calized in different subjects. As these phenomena are successively recognized by the practised eye of the presiding sheikh, the khouans, at a given signal, pierce their hands, arms, and cheeks with darts. Others slash their throats or bellies with sabres. Some crunch pieces of glass between their teeth, eat venomous creatures, or chew cactus leaves bristling with thorns. AH, one after another, fall exhausted, into a torpor which a touch from the moqaddem (presiding initiator) transforms, in certain cases, into hypnosis" (ibid., 101).

In another confraternity, that of the Refaya, founded in the twelfth century by Refai, a nephew of Sidi-abd-el-Kader, most of the devotees faint when the hysterical intoxication supervenes; others "eat serpents and Uve coals, or roll themselves about


Dance of Whirling Dervishes Constantinople

among burning braziers. They accustom themselves moreover, to casting themselves down on the points of darts, to piercing their arras and cheeks, and to being trodden under foot by their sheikh" (ibid., 204, 206). The howling and the whirling dervishes, who give public exhibitions at Const ant inojile and at Cairo, belong to the Refaya. Their ceremony begins with shouting accompanied by oscillations and leaps keeping time to the beating of drums. " Form- ing a chain", writes Thtephile Gautier, "they pro- duce, from deep down in their chests, a hoarse and prolonged howling: Allah hou! which seems to have nothing of the human voice in it. The whole band, acting under a single impulse, springs forward simultaneously, uttering a hoarse, muffled sound, like the growling of an angry menagerie, when the lions, tigers, panthers, and hyenas think that their feeding-time is being delayed. Then, by degrees, the inspiration comes, their eyes shine like those of wild beasts in the depths of a cave; an epileptic froth comes at the corners of their mouths; their faces become distorted and livid, shining through the sweat ; the whole line lies down and rises uj] under an invisible breath, like blades of wheat under a storm, and still, with every movement, that terrible Allah- hou is repeated with increasing energy. How can such bellowings be kept up for more than an hour without bursting the osseous frame of the breast and spilling the blood out of the broken vessels?" (Constantinople, xii). The whirling dervishes, founded in the thir- teenth century, are Maoulaniya, also called Mevlevis. "They waltz with arms extended, head inclined on the shoulder, eyes half-closed, mouth half-opened, like confident swimmers who are letting themselves be borne away on the stream of ecstasy. . . . Sometimes the head is thrown back, showing the whites of their eyes, and lips flecked with a light foam" (Constanti- nople, xi). At last they fall on their knees, exhausted, face to the earth, until the chief touches them, some- times having to rub their arms and legs. No beholder, without previous information, would suspect the religious significance of these physical exercises of the