If a Mussulmaun falls from affluence to penury, twelve devout men of his faith engage to fast and pray, on a day fixed by themselves, to make intercession for their friend:—they believe in the efficacy of good men’s prayers; and Meer Hadjee Shaah has often declared to me, that he has witnessed the benefit of this exercise by the happiest results, in many such cases.
The Khoraun, it is commanded, shall be read. A person perhaps dies before he has been awakened to a love of sacred things; his friends therefore engage readers to attend his grave, and there to read the Khoraun for the benefit of the departed soul.
They have a firm belief in the efficacy of prayer by proxy; and the view they have of departed spirits is still more singular. They believe the soul hovers over the body in the grave for some time, and that the body is so far animated, as to be sensible of what is passing; as when the Maulvee is repeating the service, the angels visit in the grave, or when the Khoraun is read; hence the belief in the efficacy of prayer and reading as substitutes for neglected or omitted duties whilst on earth. There are in all the mosques men retained to do the requisite service there, that is, to keep it clean, and to prevent any thing that could pollute the sanctuary from entering; to call at the stated hours for Namaaz, with a loud voice, so that all the neighbourhood may hear and go to prayers; he mounts the minaret as the hour is striking, and pronounces, ’Allah wo uckbaar!’ ’Mahumudoon Russool Allah!’—God alone is true! Mahumud is God’s Prophet!—with a voice, the extent of which can only be imagined by those who have heard it; this summons is repeated many times over.
The mosque is open day and night for all who choose to enter for the purpose of prayer. The Mussulmauns, however, in their prayer-services are not restricted to the mosques; all places are deemed holy where no unclean animal has been to defile the spot, as dogs or swine, nor any idol been set up for worship. The person coming to Namaaz must not have contaminated himself by touching the dead, or any other thing accounted unclean, until he has bathed his whole body and changed his clothes. This resembles the Mosaic law.
Ablutions are regarded as essentially necessary: if any one is ill, and to use water would be dangerous, or if there be no water to be found where the Mussulmaun is about to pray, there is an allowed substitute, merely to rub the hands, feet, knees, and head with the dry dust of clay, and this is counted to them for ablutions. Thus prepared, the devotee spreads his prayer-carpet (generally of fine matting) in the most convenient place to himself, if not in the mosque;—perhaps under a tree, in the verandah, or in a room, no matter where, taking care, under all circumstances, that the carpet is spread to face the Kaabah (Holy House at Mecca).