George Sale, The Koran, commonly called the Alcoran of Mohammed, translated into English immediately from the original Arabic; with Explanatory Notes, taken from the most approved Commentators. To which is prefixed A Preliminary Discource (1734)
particularly the compassing of the Caaba, the running between Safâ and Merwâ, and the throwing of the stones in Mina; and were confirmed by Mohammed, with some alterations in such points as seemed most exceptionable: thus, for example, he ordered that when they compassed the Caaba, they should be cloathed 1, whereas before his time they performed that piece of devotion naked, throwing off their cloaths as a mark that they had cast off their sins 2, or as signs of their disobedience towards God 3.
It is also acknowledged that the greater part of these rites are of no intrinsic worth, neither affecting the soul, nor agreeing with natural reason, but altogether arbitrary, and commanded meerly to try the obedience of mankind, without any farther view; and are therefore to be complied with, not that they are good in themselves, but because God has so appointed 4. Some, however, have endeavoured to find out some reasons for the arbitrary injunctions of this kind; and one writer 5, supposing men ought to imitate the heavenly bodies, not only in their purity, but in their circular motion, seems to argue the procession round the Caaba to be therefore a rational practice. Reland 6 has observed that the Romans had something like this in their worship, being ordered by Numa to use a circular motion in the adoration of the gods, either to represent the orbicular motion of the world, or the perfecting the whole office of prayer to that God who is maker of the universe, or else in allusion to the Egyptian wheels, which were hieroglyphics of the instability of human fortune 7.
The pilgrimage to Mecca, and the ceremonies prescribed to those who perform it, are, perhaps, liable to greater exception than any other of Mohammed’s institutions; not only as silly and ridiculous in themselves, but as relics of idolatrous superstition 8. Yet whoever seriously considers how difficult it is to make people submit to the abolishing of ancient customs, how unreasonable soever, which they are fond of, especially where the interest of a considerable party is also concerned, and that a man may with less danger change many things than one great one 9, must excuse Mohammed’s
2 Al Faïk, de tempore ignor. Arabum, apud Mill um de Mohammedismo ante Moh. p. 322. Compare Isaiah lxiv. 6.
3 Jallal. al Beid. This notion comes very near, if it be not the same with that of the Adamites.
4 Al Ghazâli. V. Abulfar. Hist. Dyn. p. 171.
5 Abu Jáafar Ebn Tofail, in vita Hai Ebn Yokdhân, p. 151. See Mr. Ockley’s English translation thereof, p. 117.
6 De Rel. Mah. p. 123.
7 Plutarch. in Numa.
8 Maimonides (in Epist. ad Profel. rel) pretends that the worship of Mercury was performed by throwing of stones, and that of Chemosh by making bare the head, and putting on unsewn garments.
9 According to the maxim, Tutius est multa mutare quàm unum magnum.