|Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of
By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz
In addition to the usual hours of devotion, especially on Friday, the Charim is visited on three different occasions, to wit:
1. At a marriage, which, however, only takes place in the evening; the young people about to be married are placed under a species of tent made of linen, which resembles an inverted chest, and you can only see the feet of those who are under it. This canopy is carried by slaves, and those who are thus protected have to measure their steps by those of the bearers, and are thus in a measure dragged along. Alongside of these slaves walk others with lighted torches made of pitch; then follows a man playing on a large kettle-drum, accompanied by several who play on a species of bagpipe, the shrill and braying tones of which are extremely offensive to the ear. Next follow the friends and relatives of the bride and groom, and after them a tumultuous mass of men and boys, young and old, all mixed up together, the shouting of whom is heard nearly all over the city. In this manner the procession moves on to Al Charim, where several religious ceremonies are performed, and some prayers recited, and after about half an hour, they return home as they came.
2. At a funeral, which is for us a most mournful and afflictive ceremony. Says the prophet Jeremiah, 7:30 "They have placed their abominations in the house on which my name is called, to contaminate it;" and (ibid. 16:13), "With the carcass of their abominations and detestable things they have filled my inheritance." The corpse is placed in a coffin, and is accompanied by the friends and relatives, Dervishes, pious Sheichs, several of whom carry long palm-branches, and many other persons, and is thus carried forward amidst continual humming, and prayers half chaunted in a deep and low voice. Oftentimes I could hear only "Hu Alla," He is God; and the whole prayer consists of nothing but these two words, which are repeated innumerable times. In this way the funeral proceeds to Al Charim, where the coffin is placed on a stone destined for this purpose, and after some prayers are recited, it is carried for interment without the city.
3. At a circumcision. This ceremony has no fixed time as to the age of the boy, only that it must take place before he is thirteen years old, which was the age of Ishmael at the time of his circumcision (Gen. 17:25). The boy, and often several at once, are gaily dressed up with all possible ornaments, and seated upon a horse likewise caparisoned, and led through the city accompanied by a large concourse of people, on which occasion the magnificent kettledrum and the sweet bagpipes must not be wanting. At length Al Charim is reached, when, after the recital of some prayers, the procession returns home, where the operation is performed, generally by a barber. Nearly the whole following week, till the wound is healed, they have merry-making and feasting in the house of the circumcised both day and night. The circumcision is, however, but imperfectly performed, and by no means after the Jewish fashion; wherefore the Mahomedans can well be called "the uncircumcised circumcised," and I would apply to them the prophecy of Jeremiah 9:24 ופקדתי על כל מול בערלה, properly rendered, "And I will visit on all the uncircumcised circumcised."
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