R. Nisbet Bain.
Time out of mind, for hundreds and hundreds of years, the struggle between the Shiites and the Sunnites has divided the Moslem World.
Persia and India are the lands of the Shiites; Turkey, Arabia, Egypt, and the realm of Barbary follow the tenets of the Sunna.
Much blood, much money, many anathemas, and many apostasies have marked the progress of this quarrel, and still it has not even yet been made quite clear whether the Shiites or the Sunnites are the true believers. The question to be decided is this: which of the four successors of the Prophet, Ali, Abu Bekr, Osmar, and Osman, was the true Caliph. The Shiites maintain that Ali alone was the true Caliph. The Sunnites, on the other hand, affirm that all four were true Caliphs and equally holy. And certainly the Shiites must be great blockheads to allow themselves to be cut into mince-meat by thousands, rather than admit that God would enrich the calendar with three saints distasteful to them personally.
The head Mufti had already hurled three fetvas at the head of Shah Mahmud, and just as many armies of valiant Sunnites had invaded the territories of the Shiites. The redoubtable Grand Vizier, Damad Ibrahim, had already wrested from them Tauris, Erivan, Kermandzasahan, and Hamadan, and the good folks of Stambul could talk of nothing else but these victories—victories which they had extra good reason to remember, inasmuch as the Janissaries, at every fresh announcement of these triumphs, all the more vigorously exercised their martial prowess on the peaceful inhabitants they were supposed to protect, and not only upon them, but likewise upon the still more peaceful Sultan who, it must be admitted, troubled himself very little either about the Sunnites, or the victories of his Grand Vizier, being quite content with the contemplation of his perpetually blooming tulips and of the damsels of the Seraglio, who were even fairer to view than the tulips whose blooms they themselves far outshone.
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The last rays of sunset were about to depart from the minarets of Stambul. The imposing shape of the City of the Seven Hills loomed forth like a majestic picture in the evening light. Below, all aflame from the reflection of the burning sky, lies the Bosphorus, wherein the Seraglio and the suburbs of Pera and Galata, with their tiers upon tiers of houses and variegated fairy palaces, mirror themselves tranquilly. The long, winding, narrow streets climb from one hill to another, and every single hill is as green as if mother Nature had claimed her due portion of each from the inhabitants, so different from our western cities, all paved and swept clean, and nothing but hard stone