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Title: Children of Persia
Author: Malcolm, Mrs. Napier
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_Uniform with this Volume_

















This is a book about Persia, intended to be read by children; and, on
this account, much has had to be left out. Do not think, when you have
read this book, that you know how bad Muhammadanism is, for a great
deal of its sin and cruelty is too terrible to tell to young folks. But
I hope enough has been said to show you that Persian children do need
to be rescued from Muhammadanism and brought to the Lord Jesus Christ
to be His children. He needs them and they need Him. So for His sake
and theirs we must do all we can to win the Persians for Christ.

                                         I am,
                                              Your sincere friend,
                                                             U. MALCOLM.




     I. MUHAMMAD                                  7

    II. PERSIA                                   11

   III. PERSIAN BABIES                           18

    IV. PERSIAN CLOTHES                          24

     V. PERSIAN GAMES AND TOYS                   31

    VI. PERSIAN SWEETS                           36

   VII. PERSIAN PRAYERS                          41

  VIII. FASTING AND PILGRIMAGES                  47

    IX. SAVĀBS                                   52


    XI. PERSIAN SCHOOLS                          62

   XII. CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS                        69

  XIII. WORK                                     74

   XIV. CHILD WIVES                              79

    XV. SICK CHILDREN                            84

   XVI. CONCLUSION                               92



  PERSIAN SHEPHERD BOY           _Frontispiece_

  A STREET OF SHOPS                          15

  A BABY IN HAMMOCK                          20


  PERSIANS AT PRAYER                         43


  A PERSIAN SCHOOL                           64

  A MISSION HOSPITAL                         90




Before we look at the Persian children of to-day, let us go back nearly
thirteen and a half centuries to the year of our Lord 570, and take a
look at two adjoining countries in Europe and two adjoining countries
in Asia.

In Western Scotland, St Columb is teaching the people Christianity, and
is writing out copy after copy of the Bible, until tradition tells that
he copied it out three hundred times.

In England the heathen Saxons are conquering the Midlands and crushing
out the Christianity of the Britons.

In Persia there is a Christian Church, but most of the people are
Zoroastrians, that is, they belong to the Parsee religion. They worship
God and believe in a prophet called Zoroaster, who lived long before
the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so knew nothing about Him. He
seems to have taught his people much that was very good, but their
religion has become full of superstitions.

Lastly, we must go to Arabia, where a Muhammadan legend describes a
curious scene.

A number of Arab women are riding into the town of Mecca. Their animals
are weary and very thin and weak, for it is a year of famine. Last
of all comes a woman with a crying baby, riding on the thinnest and
most miserable looking donkey of all the company. They are nurses from
the healthiest part of Arabia, come to find children to take home and
nurse, each hoping to get the child of a wealthy man, who will pay her
well, and give her handsome presents.

They are not long kept waiting. The babies are brought out, and
questioning and bargaining begin. One baby is not popular--the
whisper goes round that it is an orphan--there is no father to give
presents--the grandfather who is looking for a nurse will surely not
do much for it. And so one after another all the women refuse the
baby, and the old man begins to despair of success. All the women have
found nurslings except one, the woman who rode in last. She, too, has
refused the orphan, but now, seeing no hope of a better bargain, rather
than have taken her journey for nothing, she tells the old man she has
changed her mind, and carries the baby home. And the story runs that
the thin weak donkey that could hardly drag itself along as it entered
Mecca, ran along so nimbly on the way home that the rest could scarcely
keep up with it.

The orphan baby was Muhammad, the founder of the religion called
after him Muhammadanism. Some of the details of this story (told by
a Muhammadan writer) are probably quite untrue. Little Muhammad’s
grandfather was known to be very rich and in a very high position, and
if the baby was refused it was probably because he was a sickly child,
and would be difficult to rear. However, in due course he grew bigger,
and came home to his mother, and after her death lived with his old
grandfather, who thought all the world of him.

Mecca was an interesting town to live in, for once a year pilgrims from
all parts of Arabia came to the great idol temple, and little Muhammad
would see all there was to be seen, for his grandfather kept the keys
and superintended everything.

When his grandfather died he went to live with his uncle, who used
to take him on business journeys, going through the wide deserts to
distant towns with long strings of camels loaded with goods to sell.
So the boy grew up a good man of business and saw much of foreign
countries and something of foreign religions, Christianity, Judaism,
and Parsiism, and he grew discontented with his own country and his own

All the great peoples round worshipped one God. Surely Arabia would
be a better and greater country if it did the same. All the great
religions had a prophet and a book. The Christians had Jesus Christ
and the Gospel, the Jews had Moses and the Law, even the Parsees had
Zoroaster and his book the Zend Avesta. Surely what the Arabs needed
was a prophet and a book.

Muhammad was not the only person who thought this. There was a group
of people, several of whom were relations of him or of his wife, who
shared this view. Some of them thought that Moses and the Law would be
best for Arabia; but many of them saw that Jesus Christ and the Gospel
were what they needed, and most of these in the end became Christians.
If Muhammad had joined them, the history of the world from then to now
might have been very different. But Muhammad had set his heart on an
Arabian prophet and an Arabian book, and the more he thought of it the
more sure he felt that this was the real way to unity and greatness for

He himself belonged to the family which took the lead in religious
matters in Arabia, he had always been made much of, and told he would
be a great man; he used to have fits which seemed to him and to others
to mark him out as something out of the common; so it is not surprising
that he at last came to believe that he was to be the new Arabian
prophet who seemed to him to be so badly wanted. His fits began to take
the form of visions, and he believed that the words of the longed for
book were being revealed to him.

But it was a long time before he came forward publicly, and when he did
he was a good deal laughed at, and only a few became his followers.
Then he got an invitation to the town of Medina, where he had a number
of cousins. The people of Medina were very jealous of Mecca, and all,
whether they believed in him or not, joined in giving Muhammad a great

It was in Medina that Muhammad really founded his religion, and there
he became a very great man. But sad to say, as his religion developed
all its bad points came out, and Muhammad became a very cruel tyrant
and very self-indulgent, excusing himself by saying that God allowed
him, because he was a prophet, to do things which were sinful when
other people did them.

The people who joined Muhammad’s religion were called Muhammadans or
Muslims, and they went everywhere making as many converts as they
could, by fair means or foul. They had learnt that there was one God,
but they knew nothing of the Bible; they only knew the Quran, the book
which Muhammad was revealing, and they knew nothing of the example of
Jesus Christ: their only example was Muhammad, who was a murderer.

You may wonder what all this has to do with Persian children. One of
the first countries conquered by the Muhammadans was Persia--and the
Persian children to-day are themselves Muhammadans.



There is a story that when the Muhammadans took Persia and killed the
Parsee king Yazdigird, their _Khalif_ ‘Omar asked Yazdigird’s son where
he would like to live. He said he would like to settle in Persia out
of reach of any cultivated spot. ‘Omar accordingly sent him off with
an escort of soldiers to find a suitable place. After three years he
returned and said he could not find any place such as he had asked for.
‘Omar saw that he was doing all this with some purpose, and asked him
what it was. Yazdigird’s son answered that he wanted to show ‘Omar how
prosperous and well cultivated the land had become in the hands of
the Parsees, and begged him to see to it that it remained so under the

But it did not, and to-day a great deal of Persia has relapsed into

In our country all is green, and stones have to be put up to show where
one village ends and the next begins. In most parts of Persia you may
look over the plain and see the villages quite distinct--each a little
green blot on a vast sheet of sand or dry earth.

The very fruitfulness of the ground makes it less green than it would
otherwise have to be to support the population, for when three crops
can be got off the same piece of land in one year, only a third of
the amount of land that you would expect to be needed to support the
village is under cultivation.

The villages vary very much. Some count their population by hundreds,
while one village, marked on the map, contains just two families, seven
persons in all, including two children. Their nearest neighbours live
six miles off, over the sand.

How bare the world must appear to those two little children. Children
here who live in the country can hardly imagine any boundary to the
wonderful green tangle that they can see on every side of them. And
children who live in towns look out every day upon wonderful human
works, which, although they are not as marvellous as God’s country, yet
puzzle them very much as to how they were ever made. With a Persian
child it is quite different. In many places the children do not know
what wild growth is, and if you talk of continuous country, hundred
miles after hundred miles of field and wood and meadow, they think you
are telling an impossible fairy tale. While as for the little town
children, the buildings which they see all round them made of sun-dried
bricks and earth, the barrels and the thousand and one household
utensils formed of exactly the same material, or perhaps of clay very
roughly baked in a primitive kiln, seem to them hardly more artificial
and man-made than the corn in the walled gardens outside the city,
which they see watered twice a week.

They have a very different life from you and me.

Little Ahmad was a sturdy, jolly little lad of four when I knew him,
and, though he ought to have known better, he used to call after me (if
his parents were out of hearing) the rhyme so familiar to Europeans in

  Chi rang-i,

which, translated into English, means--

  What colour art thou?
  Thou art a leopard.

He lived in a really beautiful house, built of sun-dried bricks and
clay, and whitened inside with a smooth coat of plaster of Paris.

The rooms were large and very nicely furnished with beautiful Persian
carpets, and a mattress and pillows of gay designs, and Ahmad, little
rascal though he was, would never have dreamed of treading on those
carpets with his shoes on; all shoes were left at the door. One small
table for the tea-urn completed the furniture. And upstairs? Upstairs
was the roof, such a lovely large flat roof, Ahmad loved it, and he
often terrified his mother by the way he leaned over the low wall to
look down at the street, for the house had no window looking to the
road. All the windows looked into the garden, which might be said to
be in the middle of the house, for the rooms were built round it. The
windows, too, were all doors; some of the rooms had as many as five
double doors all in a row, and when they were all open the room was
very airy and bright.

There was no grass, and no gravel path for Ahmad to play on, but there
was a nice wide brick-paved walk all round the garden, which gave him
plenty of room. In the centre were the beds, which were watered by
turning a stream in and flooding them once a week. There were watering
cans, but they were only used for watering the path and roof, and even
the rooms, to keep them cool, not for the flower beds. There was a
large tank, too, in the garden with gold fish in it, where Ahmad loved
to cool his feet on a hot day, and the days can be hot in Persia.

When it was dinner-time in Ahmad’s home a cloth was spread on the
floor, and he sat on his heels beside it, and had a loaf of bread for a
plate. It was flat and round, and about as thick as a plate, so it did
very well. But he had no spoon or fork.

One of the things he liked best was rice, and when his mother put a few
handfuls on his bread he would eat it quickly and tidily with one hand,
without spilling any, which is not as easy as it sounds.

[Illustration: A STREET OF SHOPS]

Sometimes Ahmad went out for a walk in the town with his father, or
with his mother and a servant, and he passed along streets that had
not any names, and by houses that had not any names or numbers. There
was no pavement except sometimes a narrow strip in the middle of the
road for the mules and donkeys. There were no gardens in front of the
houses, there were no windows facing the road, all he saw was a sandy
road with a high mud wall on each side, and a heavy wooden door here
and there, the front door of a house.

Sometimes they came to a “_bāzār_” or street of shops. Here the
street was covered over with a mud roof so that goods and sellers and
purchasers might keep cool in hot weather and dry in wet weather. He
did not need to go into the shops, for the counters were all along the
street and there were no windows.

When the summer was getting very hot, it was decided that Ahmad and all
his family should go for a summer holiday to a village in the hills.

What a packing up there was! They packed the carpets, they packed the
beds, they packed the kettles and saucepans. Then a number of mules
were brought to the door and such a shouting and bustle began as the
loads were roped together, two and two, and slung across the big padded
pack-saddles. One mule carried two great covered panniers and these
were filled with cushions, and Ahmad’s great-grandmother got into one,
and his mother got into the other to balance her, and they pulled the
curtains well over the front, so that no one might see them. Ahmad
himself sat in front of a servant who held him safe, and some of the
bedding made a nice broad soft seat for them on the mule’s back. At
last all the mules were ready with their loads and off they set through
the streets, and soon they found themselves outside the town, going
mile after mile across the bare desert plain. This went on for fifteen
miles and then they reached a large village at the foot of the hills.
They had been riding five hours and were tired and hungry, so they
dismounted at the _caravansarai_ or inn. One of the servants took a
carpet off one of the loads and got a cloth and some food wrapped up
in a large handkerchief out of the saddlebags and spread a meal on the
ground, while another got the tea-urn and charcoal, boiled the water
and made the tea. After a few hours’ rest on the roof, the shouting and
loading began again and off they went, up the hill, which was terribly
steep in some places. Now they saw scattered and stunted plants growing
here and there, and finally, after another seven hours, they reached
their summer holiday quarters in a little hill village.

How Ahmad enjoyed the hills and fields and trees, the flowers and birds
and butterflies. A little brook ran down the valley and on either side
were cornfields and orchards and gardens, as many as the brook could
provide water for. And at night Ahmad would hear the shouting, as ‘Ali
Muhammad declared that Husain had had his fair share of water and now
it was his turn to have it for his orchard. For water is very precious
in Persia, and must be made the greatest possible use of, day and night

But the little children who live in the village are not so fortunate
as little Ahmad. They work all the summer at gardening, shepherding,
and other work; but in winter they have to stay in, and they live
upstairs and their sheep and goats downstairs. But the stairs are
outside and sometimes it is too cold for them even to go down to feed
the animals. If they can they make a little fire of sticks in the
oven, which is only a deep, round hole in the floor, and when the
flame has died down they sit round with their legs hanging into the
oven and cover over the opening to keep it warm as long as possible.
One very severe winter there was a report current in the town that in
this village the water was all frozen and that the animals were dying
because there was not enough fuel to melt the ice and give them water.
The poor children must have had a very hard time that winter.

Even in the town Ahmad is one of the fortunate children. Little Soghra
had a very different home. She lived with her grandmother in a single
small room. The floor was mud, covered in one place by a small ragged
piece of coarse matting. On this the grandmother lay, for she was old
and ill. The bedclothes were filthy and torn. One side of the room was
filled with a pile of pomegranate skins, which are used for making dye,
and there were several fowls wandering about. There was no furniture,
nothing but a few old pots and cups and a waterbottle. And yet Soghra
was a cheery little girl, and she and her grandmother were very fond of
each other.



A Persian baby--what a funny little mortal! It looks for all the world
like a little mummy, rolled up in handkerchiefs and shawls till only
its little face peeps out, and tied up with a long strip of braid
exactly like a parcel tied up with string. Hasn’t it got any arms and
legs? Oh, yes, safely put away inside all those wrappings and put away
carefully too--straightened out and rolled up so thoroughly that it
will stand up stiff and straight against the wall though it is only a
week old.

How surprised and shocked the Persian mothers are to see the English
babies kicking and throwing their arms about. “O Khanum, aren’t you
afraid its limbs will grow crooked? Why don’t you bind them straight?
Aren’t you afraid its legs will get broken if you leave them loose like

So at its very start on life’s journey the poor little Persian baby is
checked and prevented from growing up properly; for how can its little
legs grow strong without kicking? It is no wonder that Persian babies
as a rule learn to walk much later than English babies.

But perhaps the Persians are not quite so foolish as they seem when
they roll their babies up in these stiff little bundles. Very likely
the little arms and legs _would_ be broken or bent if they were left
loose, for many of the Persian mothers are very young--much too young
to know how to look after babies. They often treat them like dolls and
would very likely break them just as English girls break their dolls.

Even the grown-up mothers are often very careless. One woman I knew
laid her baby, not quite a year old, on a chair, and left it there. Of
course it fell off--it was sure to; and yet she did this over and over
again, and a few days later dropped it into a stream of water. She was
very much surprised that it began to have fits at this time, and she
said she could think of nothing to account for them.

A new missionary, who did not know the ways of Persians, went one day
to see another woman and found her in bed, that is, lying on a mattress
on the floor under a large quilt. Her friends invited the missionary to
sit on the quilt beside her, for they do not use chairs in most Persian
houses. After she had sat for some time she enquired for the baby. They
pointed to a little lump in the quilt, and there, close beside her,
entirely covered up and invisible, was the baby, and it gave the poor
missionary a terrible shock to see how near she had been to sitting
down upon it. After that, she always asked to see the baby before she
sat down.

A baby less than a week old was brought one day to the Julfa hospital
with its face badly torn by a cat. A few days later the doctor went
into the ward and found the mother smoking and gossiping with the other
women, but the baby was nowhere to be seen. “Where is the baby?” “It
is all right,” said the mother; “I put it _under the bed_.” And sure
enough, a little way off, under a bed (this time an English bed) lay
the poor little bundle, its arms bound to its sides, only its little
face exposed, or rather half-exposed, for the torn half was covered
with a dressing, while close at hand there prowled in search of food a
large half-wild cat, which frequented the hospital and had slipped in
at an open door.[A]

When they get a little older the babies are laid in broad comfortable
leather hammocks slung between rings let into the walls of the room.
Most Persian rooms have these rings in the walls. These hammocks save
the Persian mothers a great deal of trouble, for a single push will set
the hammock swinging for a long time and keep the baby quiet or send it
to sleep.

No baby may be left alone in a room till it is forty days old.

From the very first the baby is given _kaif_ every-day, that is,
something to make it sleep; this _kaif_ is almost invariably opium.
After the first week most babies are also given tea every day, without
milk but with a great deal of sugar in it, or better still sugar-candy.
This is considered specially good for babies, but it takes a long time
to dissolve. Both opium and tea are very bad for the baby’s digestion,
so we are not surprised to find that nearly all Persians suffer from

[Illustration: A BABY IN HAMMOCK]

There is one Persian custom connected with babies that boys and girls
of other lands would probably like to introduce into their own
country. The newly-arrived baby is weighed and its weight in sweets is
handed round to the people in the house, and it is supposed to bring
bad luck to the baby if anyone refuses its sweets. Plenty of people
always drop in when they hear that a new baby has arrived.

Another Persian rule for babies would not please your mothers at all.
After the first bath no baby must be washed all over till it is a
year old. One Persian lady, who was better educated than most, and
had been reading about European ideas on health and cleanliness, told
the missionaries that she was bringing up her little boy just like a
European baby. She said she gave him a bath every day and generally let
him kick instead of tying his legs up to make them straight. She was
delighted and triumphant when, instead of getting crooked, his legs
grew so strong that he walked at about half the usual age. But when
he was nearly a year old his body became covered with sores and the
missionary doctor told the mother to wash them not with ordinary water
in the bath, but with a lotion. “I should never think of washing them
in the bath,” she said. “His body must not be washed till he is a year
old.” “But I thought,” said the doctor, “that you gave him a bath every
day.” “Oh dear no,” she replied; “I don’t wash his _body_. It is his
_legs_ that I wash every day.”

When a Persian baby learns to talk it begins just like any other baby,
so that the Persians declared with great glee that the English babies
were talking Persian when they said “Baba” and “Dada.” But instead of
“Daddy” and “Mummy” Persian babies call their father and mother _Bābā_
and _Nana_.

When the baby is shown to anyone the mother generally remarks that it
is an ugly little thing, and similarly the visitors are expected to
say how ugly and dark it is, though there is no need to say it with
any great conviction. It is possible to say “How ugly you are” just
as affectionately as “You little darling.” But such uncomplimentary
remarks are used to avert bad luck and to guard against any suspicion
of the evil eye. If the visitor makes any complimentary remark she must
add “_Māshā’ allāh_” (_i.e._“May God avert it”), or the parents will be
seriously alarmed, and Baby’s admirer may be held responsible for any
calamity which befalls him for weeks afterwards.

Bibi Fati was the mother of four dear little children, Rubabeh, Hasan,
Riza, and Sakineh, and very dearly she loved them. One day they were
all gathered together for dinner when in walked a poor old beggar woman
in search of a meal. She was very anxious to please the mother, and
looking round at the children said: “What a nice little family you
have; you are like a hen surrounded by her chickens.”

Poor Bibi Fati did not feel at all comfortable at such a complimentary
speech and quickly gave the old woman some food and sent her about her

For a day or two all went well. Then one after another Rubabeh,
Hasan, Riza, and even little Sakineh sickened and died, probably of
some infectious disease, and the poor mother was left childless and
heartbroken. Nothing would convince her and her neighbours that the
old beggar woman had not caused the catastrophe by her admiration.

Baby girls do not get such a good welcome as baby boys. When little
Ferangīz Khānum was born, her father was staying at a garden a few
miles away, and no one troubled to send him word. “I would have sent a
message if it had been a boy,” said the mother, “but it is not worth
while for a girl. It will do when he comes home next week.”

Persian fathers and mothers are often very fond of their little girls,
but there is no doubt that they very much prefer boys. The father and
mother, but especially the mother, are often known by the name of their
son, so much so that sometimes the neighbours know them by no other
name than “the father of Hasan,” the “mother of ‘Ali.”

Perhaps one reason for preferring boys is that the girls marry so
young, just as they might begin to be of some use to their mothers; and
the father has to pay a sum of money to his daughter’s husband on her
marriage. A son, on the other hand, does not generally marry till he is
grown up, and then he almost invariably brings his little wife home and
continues to live with his parents.

A greater reason is that the Persians are Muhammadans, as you have
already heard, and in a Muhammadan country the men are allowed to treat
the girls and women very badly, and parents who care at all for their
girls must always feel great anxiety as to their future.

We shall never get the Persians to treat their girls and women much
better till we teach them the religion of our loving Saviour, Who cares
for us all equally and wants us to be equally kind to one another.



Persian boys and girls are white, almost as white as ourselves, though
they generally have black hair and dark eyes. The chief difference in
appearance between Tommy Jones and ‘Ali Muhammad is that Tommy wears
trousers while ‘Ali Muhammad appears to wear a skirt. Tommy’s sister on
the other hand wears a skirt, and ‘Ali Muhammad’s sister wears trousers.

The fact is that if ‘Ali Muhammad is a poor boy, his trousers are short
and so very wide as to be practically a divided skirt. Indeed they
catch like a skirt in running, so that if he wants to go fast he pulls
one trouser-leg up out of the way. If he wears a coat at all, it is a
long cotton one, or more probably two long cotton ones, reaching nearly
to his knees and adding to the skirt-like appearance.

The sons of well-to-do men often wear frock coats with the skirts
pleated all round almost like a kilt, so that in spite of their longer
and narrower trousers they still have a look of wearing skirts.


‘Ali Muhammad’s girdle too, which binds his coats to him and prevents
their blowing about in the wind, is more suggestive of a sash than
a belt. I once saw a little boy putting on his girdle on New Year’s
Day. It was a long folded scarf or _shāl_ and he put one end round
his waist while his brother took the other to the far end of the long
room and drew it tight. Then my little friend turned round and round,
so winding his _shāl_ round him, gradually moving up the room as the
length grew less, and he finished by tucking in the end. But whether
they wear long trousers or short ones, wide trousers or narrow ones,
the boys all fasten them by drawing them up with a string round the
hips--braces are not the fashion.

As we have found that, in spite of appearances, ‘Ali Muhammad after all
wears trousers, we may perhaps find that his sister, Rubabeh, wears a
skirt, and so indeed she does, but it is so short as not to be very
noticeable indoors, while out of doors it is completely hidden by the
big baggy over-trousers, gathered in at the ankles and footed, which
she wears when she goes in the street. An English missionary once
suggested to a young woman that a skirt reaching to the knees would
look better, but she said she was not an old woman yet. The old women
generally wear quiet colours and long skirts, reaching down to the
knee, but young women and girls like something more dressy. They like a
nice bright-patterned skirt about a foot long, but wide enough to reach
half across the room. This they draw up with a string over the white
cotton trousers, and the short shirt hangs loose outside. The shirt is
generally white but may be coloured, and a short coloured jacket is
worn over it, varying from plain coarse cotton to velvet embroidered
with gold and pearls.

The indoor _chādar_, or “prayer-_chādar_,” is often of pretty print or
muslin, and when Rubabeh puts on her clean white trousers, shirt and
headkerchief, with a bright frill of skirt round the waist and a pretty
jacket and _chādar_, she makes a very bright and effective picture.
But when she goes out she must put on dark over-trousers which cover
everything up to the waist, and over her head, in place of the pretty
prayer _chādar_, she must throw a large black _chādar_ which hangs over
everything, while a long strip of white cotton hangs down in front of
her face with drawn thread work in front of the eyes, so that she may
be able to see without being seen.

So, unlike our streets, the Persian ones get their colour from the men
and boys, while the women and girls supply the darker, duller element.
Bright blue is the commonest colour for the men’s coats, and green is
not uncommon, while, at the New Year, pink, yellow, lilac and other
colours make the streets very gay indeed.

The children are dressed just like their fathers and mothers, and
are little imitation men and women. The little tots look so funny
sometimes; tiny boys toddling about in long trousers, frockcoats, and
grown-up hats, and wee girls, who cannot yet speak distinctly, in the
long trousers, short skirts and _chādars_ of the women.

It seems to suggest that no great distinction is made between children
and grown-ups, and really there is not as much difference as we find
at home. The children are taught to take life very seriously and are
treated as little men and women before their time, and so they have no
time to grow up into proper men and women, and the result is that we
find the children too grown-up and the grown-ups too childish.

You will find, roughly speaking, if you look at animals that the higher
the animal, the longer its childhood lasts, because it has more growing
up to do. Caterpillars and tadpoles look after themselves from the time
of coming out of the egg, mice grow up in a few weeks, horses in a few
years, and man takes longer to grow up than any animal.

Now Muhammad, the false prophet whom the Persians believe in and obey,
had no such high standard to set before them, no such high ideal for
them to grow up to, as our Lord Jesus Christ set before His followers
and enables them to grow up to; and so his religion provides only a
short time for growing up, and stunts instead of assisting the growth
both of individual Muhammadans and of Muhammadan nations.

But we must get back to our Persian children and their clothes. Their
day-clothes we have seen; what about their night-clothes? They have
none. They just take off their outer garments and lie down in the rest,
and in the morning they just get up and put on their outer garments
again. Sometimes they do not put off anything.

“We are so tired,” said some ladies one New Year’s morning. “With all
our new clothes on we could not lie down, we should have crushed them,
so we sat up all night.”

You wonder why they were so foolish as to put them on on New Year’s
Eve in that case, instead of on the morning of the New Year itself. The
reason is simple. A Persian only puts on new clothes after a bath, and
a bath in Persia is not a mere matter of half an hour; it takes half a
day, and sometimes a whole one. Some of the richer people have baths in
their own houses, but most people go to the public baths.

All Persian women and girls love a day at the bath, and will not
shorten it if they can possibly help it. It is something like a Turkish
bath, and there they meet their friends and sit about in steamy rooms,
talking, laughing, gossiping. No wonder they look forward to it, for a
Persian girl has a much more secluded and restricted life than girls
in Europe and her intercourse with her friends is much less free. One
girl of fifteen told me that except for her weekly visit to the bath
she had only left her house once in a period of six months, and in her
own house she received very few visitors, the calls of her English
missionary friends being great events for the whole household.

At the bath they wash their hair, dye it with henna, and plait it up
in a dozen or more long plaits which hang down their backs under the
headkerchief and _chādar_, not to be undone again probably until the
next visit to the bath. The henna is a reddish dye and though it does
not show on black hair it turns fair or grey hair a carroty red. The
newcomer to Persia wonders to see so much red hair, till he finds that
this is the explanation. But the boys and girls nearly all have black

Boys have their heads shaved, though sometimes a handful of hair is
left over each ear, or a lock in the middle of the scalp. This shaving
is probably the reason why Persian boys always keep on their caps or
hats indoors and only take them off to sleep. Instead of taking off
their caps, Persian boys, and girls too, take off their shoes when
they come into a room, and this, together with the absence of chairs
and tables explains how Persian carpets last a hundred years. They are
actually more valuable after several years wear than when they were new.

Besides the hair, the fingernails, palms of the hands and soles of the
feet must, by Muhammadan rules, be dyed with henna. The richer bathers
have all these things done by the bath attendant, but the poorer ones
do it all themselves, and the very poor often omit the henna, except on
special occasions.

Just as no Persian likes to put on clean clothes without going to the
bath, so he will not go to the bath without putting on clean clothes.

“Khanum, give me a new shirt,” begged one old woman, displaying a
ragged one she had on. “For want of one I have not been able to go to
the bath since this was new.”

But where there’s a will there’s a way, and some people who are too
poor to have a change of clothes go to the bath, take off their clothes
and wash them, and then wait in the bath till they are dry.

There is a large tank in which the people wash and a ceremonial washing
requires a dip right under the water. The usual idea of changing the
water is to take out canfuls to water the tiles round, and then fill
up the tank again with clean water, so simply adding a little clean
water to the dirty.

During a cholera epidemic the Governor of a Persian town ordered that
the bath water should be changed at least once a month. One cannot
help wondering whether the monthly change was carried out as described
above, and I am sure you would prefer the little village baths where
there is often so small a tank that no one can get into it, and they
ladle out the water and wash in basins.

The common use of the one tank, with the only partial changing of the
water, and the general carelessness of infection, make the bath one of
the greatest means of spreading disease.

The Muhammadan religion provides strict rules as to clothes and baths
and washing. In the washings before prayers it even decides which
hand and which side of the face shall be washed first. And all this
the parents teach the children as carefully as, generally much more
carefully than, such matters as truthfulness, honesty and kindness.

Here again we see Muhammad giving his people what we may call “nursery
rules,” treating them as children, while our Master expects us to grow
up so that we can arrange these matters for ourselves.

As children we must live under detailed rules, but always with the
object before us of growing up right. The very fact that the detailed
rules of Muhammadanism are binding through life shows that the
Muhammadan is not expected to grow up as we understand growing up.



It is curious to go thousands of miles to Persia--to cross vast sandy
deserts--and at last to find little skirted boys in the mudwalled
streets playing tipcat just like their counterparts in our own cities.
Hop-scotch and duck-stone too are favourite games, and kites are very
popular. The kites are large and square and fly very well, and the
boys often fly them from the roofs, sending “messages” up the string
just as our boys do. There is a regular game of “wolf” too, played
almost exactly as it is in many parts of the world by English-speaking
children. I am sorry to say that pitch and toss and gambling with cards
are very common.

There is nothing like cricket and football, but in Yezd there is a
kind of “rounders” which is played for a fortnight only at the New
Year--the Persian New Year, that is, in March. Any evening during that
fortnight if you go out into the desert just outside the town walls
you will see a crowd of men and boys, some playing, some watching. And
any day during that fortnight if you visit the women, some small boy
will proudly show his _chaftar_ or rounders stick. For a week or two
afterwards an occasional _chaftar_ may be seen but after that it is a
puzzle where they disappear to, not one is to be seen till the next New

The little girls in Persia, as everywhere else, depend largely on
dolls. The dolls are home made--rag-dolls without much shape, with
the features worked in fine cross-stitch, and dressed of course, as
Persians. Good European dolls are great treasures, even to the women,
and I knew one rich lady who had eight very nice ones all for herself.

In Shiraz they make wooden horses for the children and little models
of the _kajavehs_ or covered panniers in which women and children
often travel. In Yezd, where the workers in clay are cleverer than the
carpenters, little model _kuzehs_ or waterpots are commoner and clay
money-boxes and nightingales. Roughly moulded and gaily painted clay
animals and men too, are made in quantities--but only at the “Festival
of the Sacrifice” when a camel is sacrificed. At the time of this
festival there are stalls and shops in the bazaars full of clay toys
and toy drums, but they cannot be got at any other time of year, and
as clay animals are quickly broken they are only to be seen for a very
short time. Among the toys may sometimes be seen a figure evidently
copied from an Italian statuette of the Virgin and Child--copied by
Muhammadans without any idea of what it represents. But when all is
said the games and toys are very few in Persia, as compared with those
you are accustomed to. Perhaps they are not so much needed there. The
grown-ups are so childish that it is no great hardship to a child to
practice grown-up ways instead of playing games of its own. There is so
much in ordinary grown-up life that is really a very good substitute
for a game--the elaborate greetings to be gone through with each
person in turn according to their importance, the tea served in tiny
cups no bigger than a child’s teaset, the sweet-eating, the pressing of
roseheads into the visitor’s hand, or the more elaborate arrangement
of stiff sticks closely covered with roses, the presentation of tiny
unripe first-fruits, of melon seeds or nuts ornamented with fluffy
bits of silk, of oranges inlaid with velvet, all these would seem a
very attractive game to a child. Perhaps they really prefer to join in
the games their elders play in earnest rather than play their own in
jest. The conversation too is seldom over their heads, but generally
interests them as much as their parents. The entertainments of the
elders are of a kind to suit the children too. What child does not
enjoy the Fifth of November with its Guy Fawkes, its fireworks, and its
bonfires? and the Persians, too, have their firework day, when they
burn not Guy Fawkes, but ‘Omar, the Muhammadan leader who conquered
Persia. They do not burn him, because he conquered Persia, but because
he was _Khalif_ or head of the Muhammadans, and the Persians say that
‘Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law, ought to have been _Khalif_ and that ‘Omar
was a usurper. There are torchlight processions, in which ‘Omar’s
effigy is carried, bonfires illuminations, and fireworks in plenty.

All the year round fireworks and illuminations are very popular, so
much so that the main work of the Government Arsenals seems to be the
manufacture of fireworks. Another very popular form of entertainment is
the _ruzehkhānī]_, or religious reading. It is considered a very pious
act for a man to have a _ruzehkhānī_ in his house in the two months of
Muharram, and his friends come in crowds and greatly prefer it to an
ordinary party. Muharram is the time of mourning for Husain and Hasan,
Muhammad’s grandsons.

The courtyard is crowded with people sitting on the ground, and as the
professional reader recites the story of the death of Husain and Hasan
the people sway their bodies to and fro to the rhythm and gradually
work up their excitement. Then they all begin to beat on their bare
chests with the open hand and raise a wail that gradually grows in
strength, till the wailing and the sound of the blows can be heard
several streets off and the tears stream down their cheeks. It is very
exciting, and grown-ups and children alike enjoy it thoroughly.

But _the_ day of the year is the day of the death of Husain when the
_nakhl_ is carried and the great passion play of the death of Husain
and Hasan is played.

This is a general holiday and all through the early part of the day,
the villagers come trooping in to the towns. The streets are now full
and processions pass along them carrying the _nakhls_ from the squares
outside the smaller mosques. In some towns, too, they carry _alams_,
or long poles with a series of handkerchiefs tied to them. When the
processions from two different quarters of the town meet there is
generally a struggle, often ending in a free fight; so both _alams_ and
_nakhls_ are now forbidden in some towns.

I only once met a procession myself, and then it most politely halted
to allow me to pass comfortably.

The smaller processions being over, everyone crowds to the large
squares to see the carrying of the great _nakhls_ of the big mosques.

The _nakhls_ are wooden frameworks carried on poles and hung on one
side with looking-glasses, on the other with daggers. Those in the
large squares are of immense weight. They are said on this day to be
carried across the square by Fatimeh, Muhammad’s daughter, but it is a
work of great merit to help her, so as many as can possibly get within
reach of the poles join in the work, and the _nakhl_ moves across the
square. But the afternoon is the best part when the great play of the
death of Husain and Hasan is acted. Then, indeed, there is wailing and
beating of breasts. “I enjoy it more than anything in the year,” one
lady told me.

One year there was a little boy dangerously ill with inflammation of
the lungs when the great day came round. It was considered quite out of
the question for any of the family to stay away from the play to nurse
him, and being a boy he was not likely to obey the woman servant who
was being left in charge of the house. “He would have been all over
the roof trying to get a glimpse of the play,” his mother said, “and
probably would have fallen off, so we had to take him.” So they took a
mattress for him, and he lay and listened to the play from a gallery,
and of course got up to watch the exciting parts. It very nearly killed
him, but they seemed to feel they had taken the only reasonable course,
and he eventually recovered.



In a Persian town there is a curious arrangement of the shops. All the
shops where one kind of article is sold are generally grouped together
in one street or _bāzār_. To buy shoes we go to the shoe bazaar, for
cooking pots to the copper bazaar.

The copper or brass bazaar is almost always worth a visit in a Persian
town. It is a long roofed-in street with a continuous row of small
shops on either side. The “shop” consists of a lock-up room with a
small mud platform in front of it, raised a foot or two above the
street. On this platform are two or three stumps on which the pots are
placed for hammering, for after being heated over a charcoal brazier
they are hammered and beaten into the required shape, thickness and
pattern. On nearly every platform is a man, sometimes two or three men
and boys, hammering each on his copper pot and the noise produced by a
hundred or more men hammering vigorously on copper vessels, which give
different notes according to size, shape and thickness, is deafening,
but not wholly disagreeable.[B]

But there is another bazaar well worth a visit in Yezd at any rate. The
shops here have counters rising in tiers, so as to display the very
tempting goods to advantage. The goods themselves are chiefly laid
out on huge round copper trays, about a yard across and very heavy,
made in the bazaar we have just left, but whitened over, as all copper
vessels are.

Surely we are in Fairyland at last. Shop after shop shows tier upon
tier of the most delicious sweets in the most tempting profusion.
Here is _pashmak_, looking like cotton wool and tasting something
like butter creams. There are two or three kinds of almond toffee, or
_sōn_--some with green pistachio nuts in it. Huge fondants, or _lōz_,
in diamond-shaped cakes, nearly as large as the ordinary penny fancy
cakes in England, alternate with similar cakes of green _pari-tā’ūs_
(peacock’s feathers), and brown _bāghalavā_, richer and stickier than

Those white _nuqls_ are delicious burnt almonds, which seem to melt
away in your mouth, the long ones have strips of cocoa-nut instead of
almonds, and the little round ones burnt peas. Here are little flat
round cakes of _gaz_, a kind of nougat only made in Isfahan, but sent
to all the towns in Persia. One variety of _gaz_ contains little sticks
of a gum which is supposed to cure rheumatism, a very pleasant remedy.

There is a great bowl a foot across, and over an inch thick made wholly
of sugar candy, which has taken the shape of the basin in which it
crystallised, and in the middle of which three long sticks of sugar
candy stand up high above the top. Such a bowl a kind Persian friend
sent to a missionary’s little boy, when he was a few days old, to
provide him with “sugar-candy water,” which is considered particularly
good for young babies. These are only a few of the sweets, there are
too many to mention all. Some kinds are only made in the fast month
of Ramazān, and others only at the New Year. The sweets are delicious
but they are as a rule very simple and very sweet. So the Persians do
not hand them round in little paper bags, nor even in pretty little
boxes; they pile them on plates and dishes, as we do cakes; and, as you
have seen, many of them are as large as cakes. When you go to visit a
Persian, you have not tea and cakes, but tea and sweets. For a quiet
call on quiet people, two or three plates of sweets are enough, but at
a regular sweet-eating at a big house, one or two great trays will be
set on the ground before the guests, each with five dishes of sweets on
it, each dish holding about a pound and a half to two pounds of sweets.
The Persian women are often very pressing with their sweets, even to
the point of putting them into their visitors’ mouths, and in their
hospitality they sometimes over-estimate the size of the mouth. Often
too, the guests are made to carry home what is left, or a part of it,
tied up in a handkerchief. This is so common that where the European
is shy of pressing the custom, the Persian ladies will sometimes carry
home the remains of European dishes out of courtesy, to show that they
have appreciated them. This custom probably exists and has existed in
many Eastern countries, and may very likely be the reason why Joseph
gave Benjamin five times as much as his other brothers. Benjamin was
probably intended to take what was over away with him.

I was visiting some Persian women one day, and they asked for my
handkerchief to wrap up the remainder of the sweets in. I apologised
for being unable to take them as I had not a clean handkerchief, on
which they all eagerly assured me that it did not matter in the least,
they would be quite content with the one I had. The Persian _dastmāl_
or handkerchief serves every purpose except the one we connect it
with. Your Persian servant, always carries a large coloured one in his
pocket. He dusts the rooms with it, puts his purchases from the _bāzār_
into it, polishes your boots with it before you enter a Persian house,
and carries home sweets or nuts in it.

At the New Year, there are twenty-one days set apart for holiday
making and visiting, and in every house tea and sweets and sherbet are
ready for all comers. In those twenty-one days people are expected
to visit all their friends, and even with strict moderation the most
sweet-loving schoolboy of your acquaintance would probably be glad of a
rest by the end of the three weeks.

All this sounds delightful, doesn’t it? But unfortunately it is more
for the grown-ups than for the children. The children like sweets well
enough and get a good many, but they have not the same opportunities as
the grown-ups.

But sweets have their serious uses among the Persians. We have seen
that rheumatism may be cured with nougat, and we find that sweets
in general are very strengthening. It is not at all uncommon, after
a small operation or the extraction of a tooth, to see the friends
pressing sugar or sweets into the patient’s mouth, to restore her
strength after the shock, and in the same way after a fright a few
sweets make you feel much better.

Bread and sweets are not an uncommon dinner, and a child who was
ordered by the doctor to take plenty of milk because it was good
strengthening food, was given three-quarters of a pound of sweets for
her dinner instead. “So much more strengthening than milk,” the mother

Persian sweets are very soft and in the dry climate quickly get hard
and lose their first freshness, and to offer a Persian stale sweets is
like offering you stale cakes. They are at their best only on the day
they are made, and the servant sent to buy sweets will sit down with
his tray of plates at the shop-door and wait till the new sweets are
ready, when they can be put quite fresh and new on the plates on which
they are to be served. In Yezd, where the best sweets are made, our
servants seemed to regard the moving of sweets to a fresh plate much
as we should the removal of a pie to a fresh pie-dish, and many sorts
are certainly the worse for being shifted after they have got cold. All
better-class Persians make their own sweets at home and consider “shop
sweets” very inferior.

The fame of Persian sherbet has spread far, and nearly every visitor to
Persia looks forward to a treat when he tastes it. But it by no means
comes up to expectation. It is often made fresh in the presence of the
guests, so the recipe is no secret. A sugar loaf is put in a basin,
by preference a pot pourri bowl, and cold water is poured over it,
and it is allowed to melt with an occasional stir. A little rosewater
is then added to flavour it, and it is handed round in glasses,
with ice if possible. At meals, however, the bowl is placed on the
tablecloth,--there is no table,--and a large carved wooden spoon is
passed to each in turn from which to drink it.

Sometimes lime or orange juice is offered as an alternative flavour to
rosewater, which makes it much more palatable to Europeans. But insipid
as the ordinary sherbet is, it seems the most delicious compound
imaginable when it is taken, well-iced, after a long walk with the
thermometer at 100° in the shade. Perhaps that is why it has been so
much praised.

Another favourite beverage is _sekunjibin_, which is like raspberry
vinegar with mint instead of raspberry.

Sherbet and good things to eat figure largely in Muhammad’s description
of the joys of Heaven. His ideals were ideals that did not need much
growing up to. He expected his followers to have childish ideas and
childish desires even in heaven.



Persian boys and girls need not say their prayers till they are
seven years old. Sometimes they begin sooner, but that is considered
unnecessarily good. They are not to be beaten for not saying them till
they are ten, and I have not seen many children under ten years old
saying their prayers. We cannot remember learning to pray, for as soon
as we could understand anything about God, we were taught to ask Him
to take care of us, to ask Him to forgive us when we were naughty, and
to help us to be good, to thank Him for His kindness and His gifts.
It is so simple that a child of three or four can come to God in this
way, we need not wait till we are seven to bring simple petitions to
our Heavenly Father. But little Ghulām Husain’s prayers are far from
simple. He has first to learn to wash his face, hands and arms, and
feet and legs. “That does not need much teaching,” you say. “He can
surely wash himself at that age.” But there is a right and a wrong way
of washing in Persia before prayers. There is a right and a wrong side
of your face to wash first, there is a right and a wrong hand and a
right and a wrong foot to wash first. If a Persian is very religious
and careful there is even a right and a wrong side of his arm and leg
to wash first, but few Persian children are as careful as that. No soap
is wanted, just plain water, or, if there is no water, sand. So our our
little Ghulām Husain learns his washings, and now he is ready to learn
the prayers themselves, which are all in Arabic so that he does not
understand them.

[Illustration: PERSIANS AT PRAYER]

He is shown the direction of Mecca to which he must always turn when
saying them, and he is taught when to stand, when to kneel, when to bow
himself till his forehead touches the ground, and when to make various
gestures. And when he has learnt all this he is ready to begin saying
his prayers regularly, and he is told that if he says them correctly,
and with the right movements, they will be pleasing to God, and count
as good works. He must say them three times a day, and he cannot
choose his time. When the prayer-call sounds from the mosque roofs,
and is taken up by people on the house roofs, he must leave what he is
doing, and wash and say his prayers--the same prayers every time. First
in the early dawn, before sunrise, he hears the call, and he must get
out of bed for washing and prayers. In the summer it may be as early
as four o’clock, in winter not till six or seven. Then, again, when
the sun-dial on the mosque marks noon, the call is heard, and again at
sunset, and each time the prayers must be said within half an hour.
Half an hour’s grace is allowed, so if Persians have visitors when the
prayer-call sounds, they are able to go in turns to say their prayers,
so as not to leave the visitor alone.

Some Persians are very particular about their prayers, but many are
not so particular and will leave them unsaid if there is any excuse;
and, as in other religions, there are people who neglect their prayers

There are many who are very regular in their prayers and very
particular as to the direction towards which they face, and their
positions and gestures at various parts of the prayers, but who are
not in the least really reverent over them. Medical missionaries
especially cannot always choose the time of their visits, and sometimes
cannot avoid prayer-time. Then, instead of going to a quiet room, the
Muhammadans often say their prayers in the room where the missionary
is being entertained, and the conversation is never hushed for them;
indeed, they will often themselves join in the conversation even while
they are supposed to be praying.

One day a party of women from a Mullā’s house were visiting a
missionary, when the evening prayer-call sounded.

“We shall hardly have time to get home in half an hour,” the Mullā’s
wife said. “May I say my prayers here?” The missionary readily gave her
consent, but only the one lady availed herself of the permission, and,
having asked in which direction Mecca lay, placed her prayer-stone in
front of her and knelt down to say her prayers.

The rest went on talking loudly round her, calling out and stretching
across just in front of her in a way that must have attracted her
attention. When the missionary asked them to be quiet they assured her
that their friend did not mind, and she herself turned from her prayers
to beg them not to stop for her. But the missionary insisted on quiet
until the prayers were over, explaining that it was not a question of
respect to the lady, but of reverence to God, and, in the conversation
which naturally followed, she was able to tell them some of the Bible
teaching on prayer.

The prayer-stone is a small slab of about an inch and a half across,
made of the earth of Kerbela where Husain, the grandson of Muhammad was
killed. The Kerbela earth is said to be scented with “the blood of the
martyrs,” and is much used for prayer-stones and rosaries.

A Muhammadan places his prayer-stone on the ground before him when he
says his prayers. If anyone passes in front of a Muhammadan as he is
saying his prayers it is supposed to greatly reduce their value. But
if he puts the prayer-stone in front of him it acts as a church wall
and cuts him off from the outside world, and nothing passing on the far
side of the stone can affect his prayers. If he has no prayer-stone he
sometimes draws a line on the earth instead, and this is said to be
just as effectual. At certain points in the prayers the forehead must
touch the ground, and when a prayer-stone is used the forehead touches
the prayer-stone, and perhaps the holiness of the earth touched is
supposed to increase the value of the prayers.

After the regular Arabic prayers have been said any further prayers
may be added in Persian, but the people seem generally to content
themselves with the set prayers and to be shy of adding any of their
own wording, and in any case the Arabic prayers are considered the more

Although the Persians use their prayers like charms, repeating forms
which convey to them no meaning, yet they have great faith in the
efficacy of prayers as charms. One Sunday a Persian woman brought her
little girl to the doctor’s house, covered with smallpox and very ill.
Finding that it was service time she thought the prayers might do the
child good, so she put off asking for medicine till later, and, hiding
the child under her _chādar_, she sat down among the other women and
children through the whole service.

I have never known Persians refuse Christian prayers over their sick
friends, and generally they join in with a heartfelt _Amen_ to prayers
which they have been able to understand. At one house where they were
afraid of the medicine they entreated the missionary doctor to come
daily to pray over the patient. The patient was one of five cases of
typhoid fever in the house. The others were being treated by a Persian
doctor, but this woman had very serious complications and seemed so
unlikely to recover that he suggested their calling in a Christian
doctor for her. For many days she lay quite unconscious, but every day
the missionary walked a mile and a half to pray beside her, and every
day the same entreaty was repeated, “You will come again to-morrow,
won’t you?” And the prayers were answered, for at last signs of
improvement appeared, and the poor woman was restored to health and
strength again.

God has given us a wonderful privilege in allowing us to come freely
to Him as our Father, and lay all our joys and sorrows, troubles and
perplexities before Him.

  “Oh! What peace we often forfeit,
    Oh! What needless pain we bear,
  All because we do not carry
    Everything to God in prayer!”

And, if that is true of us, how much more true it is of the Muhammadans
who do not know God as their Father, who do not know that God is love,
who do not know that they may carry everything to God in prayer. When
we think of the want of peace, the needless pain, the sin, the sorrow,
the wretchedness in Muhammadan lands, and yet see the people so ready
to pray, surely it is our plain and urgent duty to teach them _how_ to
pray, as our Lord has taught us, and to teach them _to Whom_ they must
pray--not to an unknowable, unloving Allah, but to a tender, pitying
Father, Who so loved them that He gave His only begotten Son to die for
their salvation.



One month in every year Muhammadans have to fast.

Persian boys begin to fast at twelve years old, but the girls have to
begin at nine. Sometimes they begin sooner if they want to store up
merit early. But even little four-year-old Ibrahim, who is considered
too young to join in the fast, shares it to a certain degree. For no
one is going to cook anything for him or make him his usual cup of tea
when they may not share it. He gets a bit of dry bread and a drink of
water when he wants it, but little more all through the day.

“It makes me hungry to see him eating,” his mother said.

The name of the fast-month is Ramazān, and through Ramazān it is often
difficult to get eggs, because the sweetmakers buy them up to make
sweets. It is a great month for sweets, and there are several kinds
that are only made in Ramazān; and, so far from having “self-denial
boxes,” as many Christians do in Lent, the more devout Muhammadan
servants ask for an advance of wages to buy better food in Ramazān.

This all seems strange in a fast-month, but a Muhammadan fast only
lasts from dawn to dark. At night people may eat what they like, and
they take full advantage of the permission and have nightly feasts,
ending up with a great feast on the last night.

Boys and girls are not late for supper in Ramazān. They gather round
the tablecloth as the time draws near, ready to start directly the
signal is given that it is dark. In towns there is generally a gun
fired, and at the sound of the gun the meal is begun in every house.

One day such a party was waiting round the supper, listening for the
gun, and they got hungrier and hungrier, but they heard no gun and
waited on. At last they realised that the wind had carried the sound
away from them, and they had fasted far longer than they need have
done. This was bad enough, but another family fared worse, for they
overslept themselves in the morning, and woke to find they had missed
their breakfast and must eat nothing till night.

People might differ as to when it was dark, so a test has been
appointed--as long as you can distinguish a black thread from a white
one it is light, and you must fast.

It does not sound a very difficult fast, and in winter, when the days
are short, it is not so bad, but on a long summer day it is very hard.
No food, no drink, and a blazing sun all day. It takes a plucky boy or
girl to get through it without complaining. It is no wonder that in
Ramazān “bed-time” is forgotten and all the children sit up half the
night and sleep half the day--the longer they can sleep in the day the
better, poor little things. Towards evening tempers are apt not to be
very good, but everyone enjoys the night.

No one wants to work in Ramazān; they do not want to get more hungry
than they need; and, of course, the schools are all closed.

The dispensaries and hospitals are nearly empty, for the taking of
medicine, or the use of drops for the eyes or ears, would be a breaking
of the fast, and there was a great discussion once as to whether having
a tooth out would have the same effect. It seems curious to have to
tell the people to take their medicine twice a night instead of twice a

After Ramazān the dispensaries are full of patients who have made
themselves ill by fasting all day and overeating themselves at night.

Besides the younger children there are a good many other people who get
off the fast. Opium-eaters need not fast; travellers need not fast on a
journey; sick people can get a dispensation from a mulla. A great many
people take advantage of this, and make a small ailment an excuse for
not fasting, but they are supposed to make it up at some other time of

If anyone forgets and thoughtlessly breaks his fast no great harm is
done, but he must fast an extra day in the year to make up for it. Some
people “forget” every day, but such people do not usually make it up at
any other time.

Just before Ramazān a good many people are fasting, having put off
to the last minute the making-up of the fast days for the previous

People who want to be very good sometimes fast on Saints’ Days too, and
one old lady always fasted on the day when Muhammadan tradition says
that our Lord Jesus Christ was born.

Another way in which Muhammadans think they can gain merit is by making
a pilgrimage to some holy place.

Pilgrimages may be made to any place where a Muhammadan saint is
buried, but there are four special places to which the Persians
go--Qum, Meshed, Kerbela, and Mecca. Mecca is considered far the
greatest place of pilgrimage, because it is the place where Muhammad
was born. A pilgrimage to Qum gives the pilgrim no commonly used
title, but if he goes to Meshed he becomes _Meshedi_; if to Kerbela,
_Kerbelāī_; and, if to Mecca, _Hājī_; and a _Hājī_ always uses his
title. In accosting a working-class stranger it is polite to call him
_Meshedi_, and more polite to call him _Kerbelāī_, but _Hājī_ is too
important a title to be used in this way. Quite little boys and girls
are sometimes _Hājīs_--they have been taken to Mecca by their parents.

But the people who most frequently go are the business men and the old
people. The business men manage to make a business journey, which will
include Mecca, and the old people, old women especially, are often
sent as a polite way of getting rid of them when they are cranky and
ill-tempered. If they die on the way, they are supposed to go straight
to Heaven. A good many do die on the road, which is a very rough one.
It reminds one of the man who said of his enemies that he should
like to convert them and send them to Heaven before they had time to

One day in a _caravansarai_, or native inn, I met a young woman who
told me a friend who was going on a pilgrimage had passed through her
village and had persuaded her to come too. She was going to walk all
the way and trust to charity for food, as many pilgrims do, for it is
considered a greater work of merit to give to a pilgrim than to an
ordinary beggar. The journey would take several months.

I asked her a few questions.

Yes, she said, she had a husband and children.

“And are they with you?”

“No, they are in my village.”

“Are the children grown-up then?”

“Oh no, they are quite little.”

“Then who is going to take care of them while you are away?”

“I do not know. There was no time to make arrangements. I had not even
time to tell my husband I was going. He was at work. My friends tell me
it will be a very great work of merit if I go. What do you think?”

We had a long talk, and I believe she went back the same evening to her
home. If so, she would get back within twenty-four hours of having left

The Muhammadans themselves generally allow that they are no more
agreeable or kind or truthful or good after their pilgrimages--at least
those who do not go say so freely. They even have a proverb: “If your
friend has been to Mecca, trust him not. If he has been there twice,
avoid him. But if he has made the pilgrimage the third time, flee from
him as you would from Satan.”

Even dead people make pilgrimages, generally to Qum, or, if they are
very important people, to Kerbela. I have not been to Kerbela, but I
have been to Qum, and we met quite a number of corpses going to the
burying-ground outside the big mosque. Sometimes the relations bring
them, but often they cannot afford the journey and pay a muleteer to
take them, and to pay the fees, which are very large. Sometimes the
muleteers bury the bodies elsewhere and pocket the fees.

Qum itself is considered such a holy city that they do not allow dogs
inside it.



There is a little Persian book, which many of the little boys learn to
read, called “Sad Hikāyat” or “A Hundred Stories.” Some of the stories
are very like Æsop’s Fables, and they are all supposed to teach the
children something. One story tells them that at the end of the world
God will take a great pair of scales, and as each person comes up for
judgment God will put his good deeds in one scale and his evil deeds in
the other. If the good deeds weigh heaviest he will go to Heaven, if
his evil deeds weigh the balance down he will go to Hell.

These good deeds are called _savābs_, and every Persian, whether
child or grown-up, hopes to get to Heaven by doing enough _savābs_ to
outweigh his sins.

So a little Persian boy or girl is not taught to try to always do
right or to always try to please and serve God, but only to do enough
right to outweigh the wrong he does, and if he feels he has done wrong
instead of confessing his sin to God and asking His forgiveness he
simply tries to balance it by a good deed.

And what a Persian boy or girl is taught of what is right and wrong is
very different from all you have learnt. First there is a definite list
of sins, which they can learn by heart, and nothing outside of this
list is considered a “sin,” though other things which are not right may
be called “errors,” which is a much less strong word.

As to good deeds there is more difference of opinion. One of the
“Hundred Stories” deals with this point.

A man was travelling in the desert and came to a well. He dismounted,
drove a stable-pin into the ground, and tied his horse to it while
he ate his meal. When he resumed his journey he left the pin in the
ground that other travellers coming there might tie their horses to it.
Presently a man on foot came along, and, not seeing the pin, knocked
his foot against it and hurt himself. He pulled up the pin and threw it
into the well lest any one else should hurt himself in the same way. A
discussion arose as to which of the two had done a _savāb_, the man who
drove the nail in or the man who took it out, and finally a learned and
holy man was consulted. After much thought he gave it as his opinion
that both had done _savābs_.

Every little act of kindness is a _savāb_, and this encourages good
nature and kindliness.

The children are taught to look out for chances of doing a kind action
and so balancing their wrong-doing. But at the same time they are
taught to think that if they do a certain number of kind deeds it
will not matter if they do wrong at other times. Little Rajab ‘Ali,
the muleteer’s boy, would run to fasten up the trailing head-rope of
another man’s mule, he would lend a helping hand to some stranger whose
donkey had fallen under its load, and between whiles he would treat
his own mules and donkeys most cruelly. He thought his cruelty did not
matter, because he had been kind as well.

A dishonest lad will try to wipe out his dishonesty by being regular
with his prayers or by an extra day’s fast. A man who has cheated
someone of ten _krāns_ will give a _krān_ to a beggar and consider
his account settled. One man tried to atone for the most outrageous
extortion and injustice by spending _part_ of his ill-earned gains on
good roads for the villagers and a free school, while all the time
he made no pretence of giving up his evil ways. Those he had injured
complained that now he would escape the punishment of God.

The Persians seem unable to realise the possibility of any other motive
for good works. When the missionaries first went to Yezd and opened a
medical mission, the people said, “What terribly wicked people they
must be to have to do so much good.”

One curious result of this idea of winning Heaven and securing better
places there by good works is that it almost destroys gratitude. The
beggar feels that he has helped you one step up in Heaven by accepting
your alms; then surely he has done you more good than you have done
him, and why should he be grateful to you?

The patients who are treated free at the dispensary have the same
feeling; the doctor improved their bodily state, but they have improved
his spiritual position.

It is considered a special work of merit to do anything for a _Seyid_,
that is, a descendant of Muhammad, so everyone tries to be kind to
_Seyids_, and they are so spoilt and are made so much of that they are
generally unbearably selfish, and think themselves the most important
people in the world.

Often in the dispensary the doctor is exhorted to do his utmost or to
break through some rule because the patient is a _Seyid_, and they are
incredulous and rather shocked when they are told that an ordinary
patient’s pain is just as great as a _Seyid’s_, and that all must be
taken in their turn.

Another result of this doctrine of works of merit, or _savābs_, as they
call them, is that even when a Muhammadan seems straight and honest
and altogether a good fellow you cannot entirely trust him, because he
has so many good works to his credit that he feels a few sins do not
matter, they are more than paid for beforehand.

A Persian’s idea of what is a _savāb_ is sometimes curious. Prayers,
fasting, pilgrimages, and the reading of the Quran are, of course, all
considered works of merit.

Marrying your father’s brother’s daughter is a _savāb_, though there
is no particular merit in marrying your father’s sister’s daughter or
your mother’s brother’s daughter.

Some Persian women inquired one day what each of three missionaries
living together ate for breakfast, and hearing that two had eggs, while
the third had not, they nodded at each other, as much as to say, “I
told you so,” and remarked, “It is a _savāb_. She wants to get a higher
place in Heaven.”

Giving money to beggars is always considered a _savāb_, but it is
considered a greater _savāb_ on Thursday than on any other day. Friday
is the Muhammadan holy day, and they call Thursday “the Eve of Friday,”
and on Thursday the beggars all call out as you pass, “It is the Eve of
Friday; give me a copper.”

The grown-up beggars generally, but not always, sit by the roadside
begging, but the children run alongside of you and are often very
persistent. There are nearly always beggars at the gate of any town,
asking those who are starting on a journey to give them an alms, and so
secure safety on their journey. If Jericho was anything like a Persian
town it was most natural that our Lord should find one blind beggar as
He went into the town (St Luke 18, v. 35), and one or two more as He
came out by another gate (St Matt. 20, v. 30), and that they should
address Him in almost exactly the same language.

Begging is often a very paying occupation, for so many people feel that
they have sins to make up for, that the cry, “Give me a copper. It will
be a _savāb_,” is a difficult one to refuse, especially if the copper
is only worth a farthing.

So well does begging pay that on more than one occasion the mothers
and wives of well-to-do tradesmen have been detected in old _chādars_
begging in the streets and at houses. The difficulty of recognising a
woman who is completely covered up with a black _chādar_ makes disguise

During the massacre of the Babis, a dissenting sect of Muhammadans,
in 1903, it was considered a _savāb_ to kill a Babi, but some of the
kindlier people thought it also a _savāb_ to save a life, even if it
was a Babi’s. One man is said to have been seen with a prisoner, in
great perplexity, saying, “I am quite sure of Hell for my sins, unless
I can do a big _savāb_; if this man is a Babi, my chance of salvation
is to kill him, but I am not sure whether he is, and if I kill a true
believer I shall be worse off than ever.”

But there are _savābs_ of a very different sort.

There was an old woman friendless and ill, and a Persian man found her
in the street, too ill to get home to the one wretched room where she
lived all alone. He did not know her, but he decided to undertake the
_savāb_. He sent across the town for a medical missionary, knowing the
Christians had the reputation of never refusing to help the sick poor.
He stayed there till the doctor arrived, and said that if she would
visit the old woman and provide the medicines he would send for them,
and would provide the food and nursing, and this he did until the old
woman died a few days later.

The adoption of a destitute child is not an uncommon _savāb_, and these
children are often treated very well and given a good start in life.

A kind action, as we have seen, is always considered a _savāb_, whether
it is helping a fallen mule to get up, giving a copper to a beggar, or
tending a friendless stranger in sickness and death. We may almost say
that this is the one redeeming point of a Persian’s religion. Generally
speaking, Persians are not improved by their religious ideas, for the
stronger their religious ideas are the worse their lives are, and what
one most admires in Persian character is least in accordance with their
religious beliefs.



Muhammad did not write down his teaching, for he could not write, but
his followers learnt it by heart, and wrote it down, and after his
death it was collected into one book called the Quran. It was arranged
in a haphazard way, and probably the early chapters were really spoken
last, and the later ones first. However, the Muhammadans believe it to
be, as it now stands, the Word of God, and they treat it with great
respect. When they pick the book up or lay it down they put it first to
the forehead and then to the lips, and they hold it in both hands. Many
Christians might learn from them to treat God’s Word more reverently.
They consider it a work of merit to read the Quran or listen to it, and
they read it over their sick folk in hopes of curing them. But perhaps
the commonest and most popular edition is a two-inch hexagonal one
which is almost illegible. This is sewn up in two little round or
hexagonal cases, each containing half, and is worn on the arms to keep
off evil of every kind. The cases may be plain leather or cloth, or
they may be more elaborate and ornamental, or silver cases may be used
with texts from the Quran engraved upon them.


Smaller and cheaper charms are made of texts from the Quran enclosed in
the same way.

These charms, and also beads made from the blue clay of the holy city
of Qum, are used for animals as well as people, especially young mules.
I once had a charm given me for a kitten.

Children often wear a very large number of charms sewn on to the cap or
hung on a chain round the neck, as they are supposed to be much more
susceptible than grown-up people to evil influences. One quaint-looking
charm is a little cloth camel, Abraham’s camel, sewn on the cap.

What the Persians fear more than anything for their children is the
evil eye, and it is especially to protect them from this that they
cover them with charms. They say there are certain people who have an
“evil eye.” No one seems to know many such people, but most people say
they know at least one. These people injure everything that pleases
them, and that they admire. If they admire a baby it will get ill
and very likely die; if they admire a mule it will probably go lame;
if they admire a tree it will wither; if they admire a cup it will
break. There does not seem to be necessarily any wish to do harm, the
mere taking pleasure in the thing causes the disaster. Persons with
the evil eye are quite impossible to distinguish, so the Persians are
afraid of all strangers lest they should have it. This is why you must
not admire a baby, and Persian mothers cover up their young babies
completely in the street for fear a casual passer-by should admire them
and should prove to have the evil eye.

The men carry iron in their pockets as a protection, and a magnet
is considered specially powerful in this way. A more common form of
iron to carry is an iron chain, which is useful for driving mules and
donkeys and beating off savage dogs.

The women sometimes wear charms to make their husbands love them. One
poor thing gave me hers--two large beads: they had not proved of much
use, for her husband beat her and treated her very badly.

Another charm is a tiny bag of the scented earth of Kerbela, where
Muhammad’s grandson Husain was killed, and if rubbed on the eyelids it
is said to cause the eyes to shine brightly.

The beads of the Muhammadan rosaries are often made of this Kerbela
earth. Every Muhammadan has his rosary--many of them have quite a
collection, for pilgrims to Kerbela bring back rosaries for all their

These rosaries are never used for counting prayers, but occasionally
for counting the attributes of God or invocations. But the main use is
a very different one. They are the Persian’s ordinary means of trying
to find out God’s will. They are used both in serious and in frivolous
matters; no Persian will settle anything without “taking the beads.”
He takes the beads before making a business appointment, but he takes
them again to see whether he shall keep it or not. He takes the beads
to see what doctor he is to send for, and again to see if he shall
follow his instructions. He takes the beads to see if it is a good day
to buy a new coat, and again to see if it is a good day to put it on.
You often see a pious Muhammadan fingering the beads under her _chādar_
before she answers your questions.

The rosaries are made of a large number of small beads all alike, and
three only, which are different and are called “_Sheikhs_,” placed in
different parts of the string. To take the beads a Muhammadan turns
towards Mecca and says an Arabic collect. Then he divides the beads
without looking, and tells them off two by two, saying over and over,
as he does so, “_Subhānu’llāh_” (God is glorious) “_Alhamdu’li’llāh_”
(Praise be to God), “_Va’llāh_” (and He is the God), passing two beads
for each word until he comes to a _Sheikh_, when he stops. If there
are two beads for the last word, the answer is much more emphatic than
if there is only an odd one. If the last word is “_Subhānu’llāh_” the
answer is favourable, “_Alhamdu’li’llāh_” is doubtful and “_Va’llāh_”
is unfavourable. If the answer is doubtful a Persian generally follows
his own inclinations.

If the answer is not what the questioner likes, the beads may be taken
again in the mosque, and the answer in the mosque take precedence of
that in the house. If, however, the answer is still the same, there
is a third method. For a small fee a mulla will do the same sort of
thing with the Quran, and the text selected overrules the two previous

A Persian lady sent for an English missionary to extract an aching
tooth. The missionary found her in great pain, but she said she could
not have the tooth out as the beads were against it, but she had sent
to the mosque and was hoping for a favourable answer from there.
However, all methods gave an unfavourable answer, so she put off the
extraction to another day.

“It would be much better for me to have it out,” she said, “but it is
not God’s Will.”

The Wise Men from the East looked for God’s guidance among the
stars, and there God sent them a message. And here and there where a
Muhammadan earnestly seeks God’s guidance, because he is trying to
really live as God’s servant, who shall say that he does not receive it
where he has been taught to look for it.

But taken as a system, how trivial, how childish, how irreverent it all
is. They use God’s name, but they take His name in vain. They profess
to seek God’s will, and profess to receive an answer from Him, and
often try the next moment to set it aside and force or coax an opposite
answer out of Him.

The Muhammadans think that through their beads they can _use_ God for
settling the every-day matters of this world in a lucky way, while they
are disobeying Him in the greater matter of godly living.



A great many things are topsy-turvy in Persia, but perhaps reading is
as topsy-turvy as anything. It is not only that the lines, and indeed
the whole book, begin at the wrong end, but the lessons begin at the
wrong end too.

An English boy learns to read his own language first, and does not
always go on to a foreign language. A Persian boy learns to read a
foreign language first, and does not always go on to his own language.

When a little Persian boy goes to school he is given a big Arabic book,
with a great many long words in it, and he is not taught how the words
are spelt, but is told what they are, and made to repeat them from
memory, pointing to each word in the book as he says it, and gradually
he gets some idea of which word is which.

The boys sit on the floor round the room, all reading at the top of
their voices at the same time in different parts of the book. They read
in a monotonous sing-song voice, swaying their bodies in time to the

The master sits and listens through the din to one and another
correcting mistakes here and there, and calling up any boy who seems
perfect in his lesson to learn the next bit, and then return to his
seat and read it over and over till he knows it too.

The book is the Quran, which the Muhammadans think was dictated by God
to Muhammad through the Archangel Gabriel. It would not be surprising
if the Persians, being Muhammadans, wished all their boys to learn what
they believe to be God’s Word; but the book is written in Arabic, which
Persian boys do not understand, and even the letters are not quite the
same as in Persian; so when the little pupil reaches the end of the
book he can read the Quran with the proper intonation, but he can read
nothing else, and he cannot understand the Quran.

The Muhammadans, however, think that reading the Quran, quite apart
from understanding it, is a very good action, so the little Persian
boys work away at it, and they do not think it hard lines because they
know all the men, and big boys began in the same way, so it seems the
natural thing to do. And perhaps it is a little consolation to know
that when they reach certain points they will be given sweets. One
little boy, who was asked how far he had got in the Quran, said that he
had just got to his first sweets.

Having finished the Quran our little Persian boy goes on to Persian
books. These, too, he studies in much the same way as he did the Quran,
but it is more useful, because now he understands what he reads. After
plodding through the Quran it is a pleasant change for little Ghulām
Husain to turn to the War between the Cats and Mice, the Hundred
Fables, or Stories of Husain and Hasan (Muhammad’s two grandsons).
Later on he reads the poems of Hāfiz and Sa’adi, and other great
Persian poets, for there is a great deal of beautiful poetry in Persian.

There is no convenient desk or table for Ghulām Husain to write on.
He sits on the floor and holds the paper in his hand or on his knee.
His pen is a bit of fine cane, cut like a quill, but with a slanting
end. As he holds it the handle points directly to the right and it is
the horizontal lines which he must make broad, while the up and down
strokes must both be fine.

[Illustration: A PERSIAN SCHOOL]

Ghulām Husain never spills his ink. Each boy has his own inkpot, which
contains a tangled piece of silk soaked in ink. It dries up between the
lessons, so when Ghulām Husain wants to write he moistens it with water
so that the silk is thoroughly wet, but there is no water lying in the
inkpot. In among this wet silk he dips his pen.

If you look into Ghulām Husain’s pen-box you will find pens cut to
various breadths for large or small writing, a penknife, and a little
slab to rest the pen-point on for the final cut; an inkpot, and a tiny
brass ladle for adding water.

Many an English boy finds it tiresome to have to dot his i’s, but
little Ghulām Husain has to dot almost every letter, some above the
line and some below, some with one dot, some with two, and some with
three. These dots are not round, but square, and the height of the
letters is measured by the size of the dots. This letter must be one
dot high, that letter two dots high, another three, and yet another
five dots high. The size of the dot itself depends on the breadth of
the pen.

As he learns to write better he will run his letters into curious
combinations, and group his dots picturesquely in parts of the word to
which they do not belong, or leave them out altogether, until at last,
when he can write a really beautiful hand, the schoolmaster himself
will not be able to read the letter without careful study, and may even
have to guess at the meaning of particularly well-written passages.

One great beauty of a Persian letter is the way each line runs up at
the end, making a pile of words, syllables, and even single letters,
something in this style:--

                                    s sc
                              way the
   “MY DEAR CHILDREN,--This is the
                              en they
    up the ends of their lines wh
                                  k o
                                  ey can
                             words th
    They also use all the longest
                                 at th
                                   so th
                                arly all
                             els or ne
        and leave out all their vow
                                no st
                               they use
                             ecially as
                           read, esp
        letters are very hard to

The Persians do not apparently think much of their own system of
education, for they are always laughing at their schoolmasters.

They have a story of a _chārvādār_, or muleteer, one of whose mules
strayed one day into a school. It was quickly driven out, and the
muleteer claimed damages from the schoolmaster to the extent of half
the value of the mule. The schoolmaster indignantly asked on what he
based his claim. The muleteer turned to the crowd which had gathered to
listen to the argument. “My beast,” said he, “went into his school a
mule and it has come out a donkey.” You see a donkey counts half a mule
in caravan travelling, just as a child counts half a person in train

The punishments are as topsy-turvy as the lessons. When a boy is caned
he lies on his back and holds out his feet instead of his hands.
Sometimes his feet are held in a kind of stocks while he is caned
across the soles. They call it “eating sticks” or “eating wood”--the
words are the same.

Some missionaries were picnicking one day in an orchard in a hill
village, and the village children gathered round to watch the
foreigners’ strange ways. “Do you often come and eat plums here?” one
of the ladies asked; and she was greatly bewildered by the curious
tastes of Persian boys, when the owner of the orchard answered for
them, that the boys who came into his orchard ate not the plums but the

This beating on the soles of the feet is a common punishment for every
one, from the slave and the schoolboy to the criminal and the political
offender. With schoolboys it is of course not very severe, but in more
serious cases it may be very severe indeed, even resulting in death.
The culprit in these cases is ordered not so many blows but so many
sticks, _i.e._ he is to be beaten till so many sticks have been broken.
A hundred sticks is not an uncommon punishment. If the culprit is rich
enough he may bribe the _farrāshes_ to strike the stocks when possible
and so break the sticks quickly, and not over his feet; but a poor man
has to take his punishment.

There is no compulsory education in Persia and very little free
education. There was one man who tried to atone for sins, which he
made no pretence of giving up, by founding a large free school in one
Persian town, but it is not a common form of benevolence. So it is only
those who can spare a little money who send their boys to school, and a
great many never get beyond a very early stage of reading and writing.

As for the girls very few parents care to waste their money over their
girls’ education. A certain number are taught to read the Quran, a
less number go on to reading such books as they have studied, but very
few can read at sight, and writing is even rarer. Still in the matter
of the education of girls Persia is in advance of other Muhammadan

In these days of general education it is difficult for us to realise in
this country how hard it is for the missionaries to teach the gospel
truths to the Persians. There is so much to be taught and there are so
many to be taught, and when it has to be done orally to people whose
intelligence and memory have never been developed by study of any kind,
whose minds and brains have never grown up properly, and who forget so
easily, it means an amount of work that would take up all the time and
strength of far more missionaries than are now in the field.

Many of the converts cannot come regularly for oral teaching, and they
are liable at any time to move out of the missionaries’ reach, so the
missionaries try to teach all the converts and their children to read
their Bibles at any rate, so that they can get teaching direct from
God’s Word themselves.

Besides the Persian schools there are now several Christian schools in
Persia, but we will talk about those in the next chapter. Since they
were started there has been an attempt in some of the big towns to
introduce an improved system of teaching, and Persian reading-books
are now printed with _ba-bi-bu_, _pa-pi-pu_, etc. etc.; but this is
the exceptional method of teaching, and not the rule in Persia, and I
doubt if any orthodox schoolmaster would care to teach Persian before
he taught the Arabic Quran.

The Parsees have a very good school in Yezd, largely supported by the
Parsees in Bombay, but this is only for Parsee boys.



There are two branches of mission-work in Persia that bring the
missionaries into close touch with Persian children: one is the
hospital, the other is the school. You will hear about the medical work
presently; in this chapter we will look at the school work.

There are Europeans in Persia, wanting English-speaking servants and
employés; there are rich Persians wanting secretaries who can write
French and English; there are business firms trading with England
and India who want English-speaking clerks and correspondents; so
naturally many Persians want their sons to learn English; and who
should teach it better than the Englishman?

But this is not all they want. As they get to know the Christians they
see that there is something in English ways and English character that
the Persian lacks. And they bring their boys to the missionary, and
ask him not merely to teach them English, not merely to teach them
book-learning of any sort, but to teach them to be good boys.

They do not so often ask for a girls’ school, for they do not think a
girl needs any book education as a rule, and only a few of the Persian
women can even read. Yet in some of the Mission-stations girls’ schools
have been started with great success, and year by year the demand for
them is growing.

English is less taught in these schools, but some of the girls learn
it, especially those most closely connected with the mission. The
girls, of course, have to give a good deal of time to sewing and
embroidery, which are more necessary for them than foreign languages.

But in all the Mission-stations sooner or later, generally sooner, a
boys’ school is started, and these schools vary very much according to
the needs of the different towns.

In one school Armenians and Muhammadans work side by side, in another
we find Muhammadans and Parsees, while a third contains all three.

In one school only English is taught, in another advanced Persian and
Arabic are added. In yet another, everything is taught from the Persian
alphabet onwards.

One missionary works alone in his own house, another has a full staff
of Armenian and Persian teachers and monitors, and a well-built
convenient school.

But whatever the race of the boys, whatever the subjects taught,
whatever the organisation, there are difficulties to be faced.

It is difficult to get teachers; sometimes none can be got on the spot,
and they have to be fetched from some other town, perhaps several
weeks’ journey away. Sometimes the missionary has to be the only
teacher till he can train some of his own boys to be first monitors and
then masters in the school.

Then there is the school itself. Sometimes the small beginnings of a
school are started in the missionary’s own dining-room; sometimes he is
able to spare a room entirely for school purposes. In one case this was
supplemented by a rough tent or shed made of matting in the compound.
But as the school grows, separate buildings have to be found or built.

Books are another difficulty. All books for teaching English have to
be got from abroad, and many are not suitable. Readers which are very
suitable for the size of boy who reads them in England or India, are
not suitable for the young men who often use them in Persia. If you
give an educated young man, well read in the finest Persian poetry, the
childish stories and rhymes in many of the readers, he thinks English
books are very, very foolish, and his opinion of English intelligence
in both literary and religious matters falls very low.

All these things need money. The boys generally pay a very small fee
and buy their own books, but the fees do not go far towards paying for
the schools and the teachers’ salaries, and the getting together of the
necessary money is another difficulty.

The pupils themselves present three great difficulties. In our country
boys under fourteen generally go to different schools from boys
over fourteen, and those who wish to continue their education after
seventeen or eighteen leave school and go to college, or attend special
lectures. But in Persia the missionary is asked to take them all
together in one school, even middle-aged men wishing to become pupils.
But it is quite impossible to make a satisfactory school of boys and
men together. It is sometimes possible, especially in the larger
schools, to arrange separately for the men, but generally an age limit
has to be set.

The second difficulty arises from the number of boys who want to learn
English and who are never likely to have any use for it. They have an
idea that it is so new and uncommon that any one who knows it is bound
to get work at a good salary, and so they want to waste their time over
it when they ought to be learning the subjects they will really need
for their work. It takes some time and trouble to sort these boys out
from those who are really likely to need English. The third difficulty
is not peculiar to Persia, though it presents some peculiarities there.
It is the problem of managing the boys.

Boys in England, I am sorry to say, sometimes tell lies, but in Persia
it would be more correct to say that they sometimes tell the truth.

Then again the boys are of different ranks; some of them come with
their servants, and a certain amount of tact has to be used to get
them to accept the ordinary rules of discipline. But in a school where
everybody comes to learn most of these difficulties can be overcome.

Persian boys want knowing, like all boys, but when one tries to do
one’s best for them one finds them thoroughly lovable and possessed of
a large number of exceedingly good points.

Lastly, the _Mullās_, or Muhammadan clergy, see in the schools the
greatest danger to their religion, and they oppose them strongly. They
know that such close contact with Christians must open the boys’ eyes
to some extent to the contrast between Muhammadanism and Christianity,
and they know Muhammadanism cannot stand such a comparison.

Many Muhammadans, who believe that Muhammadanism is a true religion
given to them by God through Muhammad, still see that Christianity is
the better religion, and Muhammadans have told me that God had given us
a better religion than He had given them.

So the _Mullās_ try to persuade or frighten the fathers into not
sending their boys to the Mission-school, they try to frighten the boys
out of going, and they try to get the governors to close the schools.
But it is God’s work, and He does not allow them to stop it for long.

The boys themselves show the greatest interest in whatever they are
told about the Bible, and naturally in one way or another Bible reading
is always a prominent feature of every class of Mission-school.

Sometimes there is a regular lesson on the Bible as one of the school
subjects, but in other places there are no Bible lessons, but only
prayers and Bible-reading, with very simple explanations. But however
this may be, the gospel story of Christ Jesus, which is known by name
to every Muhammadan, but by more than name to very, very few, is always
of absorbing interest, and is not likely to be forgotten.



“To the house of ‘Ali Akbar the pea-roaster,” I said to my servant.

“There are two ‘Ali Akbars pea-roasters,” he replied, “one is alive,
and one dead; which do you want?”

It proved to be the widow who had sent for me, and we were soon great

“And do you go to school?” I asked Husain, a merry little boy of eight.

“No, I am an apprentice-baker,” he said with an evident sense of
importance; he felt he was a wage-earner--a halfpenny a day, I think
was the amount, but where a labourer often only earns fivepence a day,
even a halfpenny a day counts for something in the family.

Seven years old seems to be a very common age for apprenticing boys
in Persia. A boy of that age can make himself useful and gradually
learn his trade, and if his master and his fellow-apprentices are kind
he may be very happy, like my little baker. He probably fetched and
carried, brought sticks for heating the oven, laid out the long thin
flat loaves in rows as they were handed to him from the oven, and later
carried them in a tray on his head, or hanging over his shoulder, to
some of the customers.

Probably our Lord Jesus Christ Himself started work in the carpenter’s
shop at Nazareth as soon as He could be of any use. He would fetch and
carry tools, sort out the nails, help to clear away the shavings, and
later He would learn to hammer nails, to saw and plane, just as the
little Persian apprentices do to-day, and He would thoroughly enjoy
helping Joseph in the workshop and Mary in the house.

There was a little “apprentice-carpenter” who looked such a baby he can
hardly have been as old as seven. He used to run back to the shop for
tools or nails, and hold the hammer, and he even succeeded in pulling
some nails out of a packing-case. But his master was not always kind to
him, and sometimes beat him, and he did not seem as happy as the baker

Servants will often bring their little boys to the house to help them
in their work, and gradually fit themselves for service. When they
begin to be really useful the master generally gives them a small wage.
A servant who has no boy of his own will often bring a nephew or a

In every trade you find them, little boys whose business it is to
lighten their elders’ work a little in any way they can, for the
Persians are not over fond of hard work.

You find them too in the houses of poor people, who cannot afford to
keep a regular servant, but pay a few coppers or a meal to a little boy
to come in and make himself useful, sweeping the floor and watering
it in hot weather, preparing the _qaliān_, or hookah, running errands,
chopping firewood, and a hundred other things. It is a system that
works very well when it is worked with kindness and consideration, but
it is a terrible system when it is abused.

In the Persian carpet trade we see this. In the villages the whole
family works at one carpet, and as the children grow old enough they
are taught and made to join in the work. There need be no cruelty in
this, and often the little things are only too proud and happy to do as
their elders do, and join in the family task. But unhappily even in the
family there are many cases of cruel overwork and ill-treatment.

But for the horrors of child labour in the carpet trade we must turn to
the factories of Kirman.

These factories are filled with children from four years old upward,
underfed, overworked, living a loveless, joyless, hopeless life. The
factories are built without windows lest the children’s attention
should be distracted, and the bad air, want of food, and the constantly
keeping in one position produce rickets and deformity in nearly all. Of
thirty-eight children examined in one factory thirty-six were deformed.

One of the Governors of Kirman forbade the employment of children
under twelve in the factories, but the order did not last beyond his
governorship. The same Governor gave the order still in force, which
forbids the employment of children before dawn or after sunset, thus
reducing their working hours to an average of twelve hours a day. A
recent Governor added to this an order limiting the Friday work to
about two and a half hours, “from sunrise to full sunshine,” so now the
children share in part the general Friday holiday of Muhammadanism.

One of our medical missionaries was called to attend the wife of the
owner of one of these factories, and consented to do so on condition
he made windows in his factory to allow the children air and light.
He objected at first, saying that it would prevent their working, but
finally consented, and admitted afterwards that the children did more
work with the windows than they had done without them.

The factory owners are glad to get the children, for they say children
work better than grown-up people at carpet-making, and of course they
expect less wages. But how can the parents allow their children to live
this cruel life? You will find the answer in the Persian saying that
“of every three persons in Kirman, four smoke opium.”

The man who takes opium regularly becomes a wreck; first his digestion
is ruined, then his heart gets weak and he get bronchitis and other
chest troubles, and he become unreliable physically and morally; he is
untruthful and deceitful, and when he is once well under the power of
the habit, he goes almost mad if he cannot get his opium at the usual
time, and would sell his soul for it, and does sell his children. Over
and over again comes the terrible story, the father and mother smoke
opium; the little deformed child toils through the long days to earn
the money that buys it.

In the villages the children begin almost as soon as they can run about
to take out the sheep and goats, not in green fields, for there are
none, but among the scattered plants on the mountain-side or under the
village trees.

Only the boys are allowed to take the flocks out on the hills at any
distance from the village, and on mountains where there are thought to
be wolves, even the boys are forbidden to go without a man.

But in and around the villages boys and girls alike turn out.
Often they carry a long pole, generally more than twice as long as
themselves. This pole serves at times as a fence to keep the flock
from wandering into crops as they pass them on their way, or as they
graze on the stubble of the neighbouring crops which have been already
gathered in. The stubble itself is not much, but there are more weeds
there because the ground has been watered. But neither on the hills nor
in the fields can they find much pasture in the heat of summer, so the
little shepherds and shepherdesses take their flocks under the trees
and beat the leaves down with their poles for the animals to eat. When
the lower leaves are finished they climb, boys and girls alike, into
the trees, often to considerable heights, and beat the higher branches.
The leaves that are not eaten are dried and kept for the winter as we
keep hay. It is an awkward thing for a child to climb trees encumbered
with a long pole, and in the districts where they do this there are
often accidents. One little boy of eight or nine was brought to the
Yezd hospital with a bad compound fracture of his skull through falling
out of a tree while tending the sheep. He got nearly well, and then his
mother took him home, so I do not know whether he fully recovered or

Among the richer classes the children sometimes undertake nominal work
at a very early age, but not actual work. One boy of about sixteen in
our school held a position in the Persian army corresponding to that of
Colonel, and there was said to be a Field-Marshal of twelve in the army.

Merchants consider it good training for their sons to do a little
business on their own account, and some of our schoolboys imported
goods from Bombay or elsewhere while they were still at school, and
disposed of them at a profit.



The Persian girls stay at home longer than the little apprentices, but
not so long as the richer schoolboys.

The usual age for a Muhammadan girl to marry is thirteen or fourteen,
but in many places they marry as early as eight or nine.

This perhaps explains why the girl is given no voice in the choice of a
husband, and all is left to the parents.

It perhaps partly explains too why Muhammadans are allowed to beat
their wives, though they will tell you, as a proof of their prophet’s
kindness to women, that he forbade them to do it with a chain. A little
girl who has not had time to grow up and learn to behave herself, will
often no doubt be difficult to control.

The young wife of a shoemaker one day lost her temper because her
husband said he could not afford to buy her something she wanted. She
proceeded to break all the ornaments in the house and to tear her best
_chādar_ to rags. Her husband, who was a Christian, went to the English
missionary to ask whether it would be allowable under the circumstances
to beat her.

Another girl refused to cook her husband any food when he came home
from his work, and would not even speak to him. She admitted that
he was very kind to her, and that she liked him better than her own
brothers, but still continued to sulk in this way. Her own relations
said a good beating was what she wanted, but her husband had scruples
about wife-beating, and would not do anything. But not many Persian
husbands are so forbearing.

Another necessary result of these early marriages is the custom of
living with the husband’s parents. A girl of even fourteen is not
fit to be given sole charge of a house. So the bridegroom takes his
bride home to his father’s house, and puts her under the charge of her
mother-in-law. When, however, the mother-in-law becomes a widow, she
has to take a secondary place, if her daughter-in-law is at all of an
age to manage her own affairs. Then the old lady often prefers to leave
her son’s house, and to go and live with a married daughter, and the
men are generally very good in taking in their mothers-in-law.

Poor little girl wives! They are taken away from home before they are
grown up, and although they are now married women they cannot help
behaving as children. There was one young wife of a Government official
who received her visitors with the utmost dignity and propriety, and
then could not resist the temptation to pinch the old black woman who
was handing the tea and make her jump.

And they hardly know what to do with their babies. They love to nurse
them and play with them, but they get very tired of them and are often
glad to hand them over to the grandmother. I went to condole with one
girl on the death of her dear little baby, and she said, “It was just
as well it died before the winter. It would have been such cold work
getting up in the night to look after it.”

Even when the children grow older their mothers, grown-up children
themselves, do not know how to manage them. What do you think of
mothers who lose their tempers with their children, and fly at them
and bite them? And they are not ashamed of it, and their neighbours do
not seem surprised or horrified. One woman bit her little boy’s hand,
till it bled badly. He was about seven, and had cried to have his best
coat on when he went to see the missionary. Another woman bit the cheek
of a poor little consumptive girl of eight or nine, so that there was
a great bruise, and the skin was broken. She told a neighbour, with a
laugh, that she had got angry with the child because she was tiresome
about taking her medicine, which was very nasty.

There is no command in the Quran that girls should be married so
young, but the mothers declare that it was the command of Muhammad,
and certainly he himself set the example by marrying a girl of nine.
So when a mother thinks her girl is getting old enough to marry she
begins to look out for a suitable husband, and talks things over with
the mother or sister of any man she thinks likely. The man’s mother is
allowed to see the girl, but not the man himself, so you see even the
men cannot choose their own wives. Then the money matters are arranged.
It is settled how much the girl’s father will give her, and how much
her husband will settle on her, and there is often a great deal of
haggling over this.

If a girl has a cousin who is the son of her father’s brother, he is
considered the most appropriate husband for her, and it is considered
an act of merit for him to marry her.

If a girl has a large dowry she can generally get a good husband as
husbands go out there. If she is poor she has more difficulty, but a
capable, industrious girl may do fairly well. But a penniless girl with
nothing to recommend her fares badly indeed. When her mother fails to
get any husband who is at all desirable instead of letting her girl
remain single, she marries her to a madman or a drunkard or a deformed
man, or someone utterly undesirable.

The engagement is celebrated by a formal sweet-eating to which the
friends on both sides are invited.

The bride and her family prepare her trousseau, and she also has to
make a complete suit of clothes for the bridegroom. In one town now it
is customary for every well-to-do bride to have one European dress in
her trousseau, and for her father to give her a table and chairs.

The wedding itself is a great affair, lasting a week, if the bride’s
father can afford it, but only a day or part of a day in the case of
poor people. The little bride in her finest clothes, of which she is
very proud, looks very disconsolate and cries a great deal. No doubt
the tears are sometimes genuine enough, for the child is leaving her
home and going to people she knows little of, but even if she feels
inclined to laugh and smile she must not do anything so improper.

After the wedding she must not leave her husband’s house for a year,
but she may receive visitors.

As we have seen the marriage and wedding are arranged by the women,
but generally the bridegroom has more say in the matter than one young
man I knew. He had been engaged for some time, and on going home
from work one evening found his wedding prepared without his having
been consulted, and had to be married then and there. He was fond of
children, and quickly won the heart of his little wife, who cried when
he had to go back to his work.

We do sometimes find happy family parties in Persia, the husbands
treating their wives with consideration, and the wives being very fond
of their husbands. One old lady told me, with tears in her eyes, how
good her husband always was to her, and how he always got up and made
a cup of tea for her in the morning if she was not well. But this is
the exception and not the rule. There does not generally seem to be any
great affection between husband and wife. The husband expects implicit
obedience from his wife, and is prepared to enforce it. On the other
hand she has certain privileges. She generally has the best courtyard
in the house, to which no men are admitted but near relations, and the
smaller courtyard is given up to her husband to receive his guests in.

Except in the highest classes Persian women go about a good deal, but
always have to wear a veil in the street or draw the _chādar_ over
their faces.

The man is absolute master in his own house, and unless his wife has
powerful relations he may do what he likes to her and her children, and
no one will take any notice.

I knew one woman whose husband treated her like a slave. He forced her
not only to do all the work of the house, but the work of the stable
too, for he was well enough off to keep a horse. He killed one child
in her arms, and twice stole another away from her, sending it once
to a town a week’s journey off, and once to another part of the town.
Finally he divorced her, without giving any reason, and left her ill
and destitute. And she had at no time any redress.

Certainly Muhammadanism does not tend to make good husbands, nor
perhaps good wives either. The Persians are many of them kindly people,
however, and treat their wives better than Muhammad taught them to
do. Otherwise the lot of women in Persia would be harder than it is.
One great evil they are spared, for the widows are not despised and
ill-treated as the Hindu widows are, but are allowed to marry again,
and generally do so if they are of a suitable age.

Still the condition of girls in Persia is not a happy one, and I think
that all of you who have Christian mothers, and know what the love of
such a mother can be, will have something to pray about, when you think
of mothers and their children in Persia.



Measles, scarlet fever, whooping cough, mumps, chickenpox, Persian
children have them all. Typhoid fever, diphtheria, rheumatic fever are
all common. But almost the commonest illness of all is smallpox.

A woman brought a child into the dispensary waiting-room one day
covered with a smallpox rash. The doctor, new to the country, ordered
her out, condemning her reckless disregard for infection. “Is there
anyone who has not had smallpox?” she asked, looking round at the
thirty or forty other people in the room. As she expected, all had had
it, and she came in.

It is considered a children’s illness, because people hardly ever grow
up without having had it. In fact, their parents take care they shall
not, for they are so afraid they will take it badly at an awkward time
that they choose a convenient time, and either put the child with a
person who has smallpox mildly, or, oftener, inoculate him with it,
just as we inoculate our babies with vaccine.

My cook asked me one day, with tears, to go and see his baby; they
had given it smallpox to get it over, and it had taken it badly. I am
glad to say it recovered. He had not thought it necessary to make any
difference in his cooking for us, while he was spending his nights with
a baby with smallpox. Another missionary’s cook brought his little boy
with smallpox to the kitchen because it was more cheerful for him than
being at home; he could lie and watch his father cooking.

So the Persians do not take much trouble to prevent their children from
getting ill. How do they care for them when they are ill?

First of all they start doctoring them themselves, except in smallpox,
when they say it is dangerous to give any medicine. For other illnesses
they give plenty of medicine, not in little teaspoonfuls, but in nice
big bowlfuls, and the nastier it is the more good they think it will
do. On the whole Persian children are exceedingly good about taking
their medicine, but whether they are or not they have to take it. One
way of giving it to naughty children is to pour it through their noses
from a little tin cup with a long narrow spout.

If the child gets no better the doctor is consulted; very often two
or three doctors are called in, and sometimes the parents follow the
doctor’s advice, but very often they do not. It depends partly on the
beads, and a good deal on how much they have paid. If they pay much
they generally make the patient take all the medicine for fear their
money should be wasted. If the doctor seems unable to cure the patient
a reader is called in, sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, who reads
the Quran over the patient in the hope that it may effect a cure where
medical treatment has failed.

In the case of a long, tiresome illness, or when they despair of
recovery, it is not uncommon for the patient’s friends to hasten the
end by giving a dose of poison.

One girl, who had very little the matter with her, but was always
making a fuss over her ailments, gave her family a great deal of
trouble with her fancies. They found her recovery was likely to be
slow, and although she was going on well they one day told the doctor
that “they had _given her sherbet_ and she had died.”

I myself was several times asked to give poison in the form of
medicine, and I think they were rather surprised when I told them how
Christians regard such a thing.

When the medical missionary starts work he may be puzzled by the very
common request that he will give the second medicine first. It appears
that the people think, with how much truth I cannot say, that their
doctors give first a medicine to make the patient worse and then one to
make him better.

Perhaps that was what the devoted old grandmother was thinking of, who
had brought her poor little granddaughter in from a village many miles
away, very, very ill with rheumatic fever. She called in the English
doctor, and got her medicine from the dispensary, but when the doctor
called next day, she said she had not given the child any, because she
remembered she had never asked if it would do her good and so she was
afraid to try it.

It must surely have been in the minds of the friends of one patient who
came to the missionary, and said their friend was worse every time she
took her medicine, and they wanted some more, it was doing her so much

When you are very ill, Mother keeps you very quiet and does not let you
see visitors, but when a little Persian is very ill all the neighbours
crowd in to see him, and the more ill he is the more people come in.
And they do not tread on tiptoe and talk in a whisper, they all talk
quite loud out and smoke _qaliāns_ and drink tea, and make noise enough
to give anyone in good health a headache, much more a sick child.

One day I was called in to see a child who was dangerously ill.
Instead of showing me into her room, the mother, together with a
variety of aunts, sisters, and other relations, escorted me to their
receiving-room. I asked for the sick child, and was told I should
see her after tea, which meant at least half an hour’s delay. As
the account they had given of her sounded very bad, I said I could
not wait, that it was not our custom to think of tea-drinking and
entertainment when our patients were perhaps dying. With great
difficulty I managed to persuade them to take me to the poor little
girl, whom they had left alone while they all came to have tea and
sweets with me. She was, as they had said, very ill, her recovery was
very doubtful, yet as soon as we left the room, and had sent for the
medicine, they were all eager to entertain me, and I do not think
anyone would have stayed with the child if I had not insisted, and they
were all as gay and lively as if they had had no one dangerously ill in
the next room.

The Persians are very hospitable and like to put their best before
a visitor, and they consider it very necessary to provide something
nice for the doctor. Some Persian doctors send word beforehand what
refreshments they would like got ready.

Sometimes this deters the very poor from calling in even the mission
doctor, who, they know, would treat them free. They cannot even provide
tea and sugar. It was a great relief to more than one poor person, when
it was discovered that the mission ladies were fond of boiled turnips,
for a plate of turnips was within the reach of the poorest, costing
only about a halfpenny. The news spread, and several sick people were
able at once to have a doctor.

But it is in surgery that one sees the Persian doctor at his worst.

Here comes little Husain with his head plastered up with mud; on
removing the mud we find a broken skull and a large wound in a foul
condition. Next comes little Sakīneh with both hands burnt; the burns
are smeared with sticky white of egg covered over with leaves; it will
take days of proper dressing to get the wounds clean. But she is not so
badly off as Rubābeh, whose burn has been dressed with camphorated oil,
and is so inflamed that she screams and cries the whole time.

A more fortunate child was the little girl who was scalded nearly all
over, but not deeply, and who looked like a little nigger with the
_ink_ they had put on. She got well very quickly. It is like Indian
ink, and seems to be the best of the remedies the Persians use for

With broken bones the Persian doctors are not very successful either.
Little Hasan, aged four, fell and broke both arms. The Persian doctor
as usual tied them up with splints that were too small to be any real
use, but he tried to make up for that by tying the bandages very tight,
and poor little Hasan had both arms partly destroyed. How proud he was
when, after some weeks at the C.M.S. hospital, he was able to carry an
English doll clasped to his heart with the two poor bandaged stumps.

There was some truth in what one doctor said, that more than half the
cases that came into the hospital had come there in consequence of the
Persian doctors’ treatment. The remedy is generally worse than the

There are exceptions, and I have met Persian doctors, who not only had
real knowledge of medical treatment, but had some of the true doctor’s
spirit of pity and self-sacrifice. Especially I would mention the
brave Persian doctor who stayed at his post in Shiraz in the cholera
epidemic of 1904, and fought that terrible disease instead of yielding
to the panic that had seized his fellow countrymen.

It is evident, however, that there is a great and crying need for
dispensaries and hospitals in Persia. So in the north the American
Presbyterians, and in the south the Church Missionary Society, have
founded them in a number of towns.

As a rule a dispensary is started first, to which out-patients can come
to get medicines and have their hurts attended to. Later a hospital is
opened. Generally the first hospital is a very poor affair, but as the
work grows money is collected, and nice, clean, convenient hospitals
are built and furnished. Armenian and Persian boys and girls are
trained as nurses and assistants, the boys for the men’s hospital, the
girls for the women’s and children’s.

Here Hasan and ‘Ali, Fātimeh and Rubābeh, and a great many other little
Persian children are made as comfortable as their illness allows, and
are kept clean and happy in comfortable beds, and well fed and cared

[Illustration: A MISSION HOSPITAL]

Morning and evening they hear prayers read, and soon they too venture
to join in the “Our Father.” And every day someone reads and explains
in the ward something about the Lord Jesus Christ, and His love and His
teaching, and they learn that He knows and loves each little Akbar or
Sakīneh and wants them for His own, and they learn to love Him because
He first loved them. They learn hymns too, and love to sing them,
the same hymns that you know so well, “Whiter than snow,” “Simply
trusting,” “Here we suffer grief and pain,” and many others.

The last recalls the story of little Bāgum, the child-wife, who was
deliberately and cruelly burnt by her husband, and was brought to the
mission hospital. There was no hope of recovery, but all was done that
was possible to relieve her pain and brighten her last days.

She had heard something of the Gospel story from a missionary who had
paid a visit to her native village, and she had been so interested that
she had asked two Persian children to teach her more. When she was
brought to the hospital even the terrible pain she was suffering did
not make her forget the wonderful story, and she begged to be told more
and more. And resting in the love of Christ and trusting wholly in Him
and His salvation, she loved to sing of the joy to which He was going
to take her and kept begging for “Here we suffer grief and pain,” and
repeating over and over the refrain, “Shādī, Shādī,” (joy, joy), until
even the Muhammadan women would sit beside her and sing the hymn that
comforted her so much.

In a small village in another part of Persia lived a little lame girl.
She could not walk at all, and her leg was drawn up so that she could
not straighten it, and she suffered very much. She was a good deal
of trouble to her parents, and they got tired of taking care of her,
and neglected her a good deal, till at last her father heard of the
mission hospital in the neighbouring town, seventeen miles off, and
took her there to see if the _Ferangis_ (Europeans) could cure her.
She was taken in, washed, and dressed in clean clothes and put to
bed. At first she used to scream when her leg was touched, but it was
operated on, and gradually, very gradually, the pain grew less, and the
leg grew straighter. But still, as the months went on, the recovery
was very slow, and when the weather grew so hot that the hospital had
to be closed and her father took her home, though free from pain while
she lay still in bed, the pain was so great when she tried to stand
that she could not walk a step. But as she lay alone on her bed at home
she thought over all she had heard at the hospital, and one day a new
thought struck her. Surely the _Khānums_ had told her that the Lord
Jesus Christ, Who used to cure people so wonderfully, was alive still
and could hear when anyone spoke to Him. Why had she never asked Him
to make her leg well? And then and there, in her ignorance and simple
faith, she asked Him, Who in the old Gospel days had made the lame
to walk, to make her walk, and, confident in His love and power, she
“arose and walked.”

When the hospital was reopened she came back again still lame, still in
pain, but able to walk about with a stick. And she loved more than ever
to hear of Him who had not only done so much for the sick Jews of old
times, but had done so much too for her.



A Persian was one day talking to an English missionary and asked why
our King did not annex Persia.

“It is not right,” said the missionary, “to take what belongs to
someone else, and Persia belongs to your Shah.”

“Still your King is surely bound to do as the Bible tells him, and the
Bible tells him to annex it.”

“Where does the Bible say that?”

“Does it not say that if you see your neighbour’s ox or ass fallen into
a pit you are to pull it out? And Persia is an ass fallen into a pit,
and your King should pull her out.”

Yes, Persia has indeed fallen into a pit, and we must pull her out,
but the pit is not simply one of political difficulty, it is the pit
of Muhammadanism, Persia’s most real difficulty, and we must annex
Persia for the King of Kings. As long as the Persians are Muhammadans
lying and dishonesty will be the rule, cruelty and injustice will go
hand in hand, the poor will be oppressed, the girls and women will be
treated as inferior creatures, the children will be liable to overwork
and cruelty, and religious persecution will continue. And the Persians
are finding out that they are in the pit and they are struggling to get
out, they are crying to us for help. Are we going to help them?

Thousands of Muhammadans in Persia are dissatisfied with their
religion, and are looking for something better. Many are trying a
dissenting form of Muhammadanism, called Bābīism, but many are looking
to Christianity for help.

At first they distrusted the Christians, and Christian work was
constantly hindered or stopped. Now they have learnt to know and trust
the Christians, and the work is not greatly interfered with. Indeed
everywhere the Persians are asking for teachers and doctors, for
schools and hospitals, and for Christian teaching.

If we do not help them in their search after the Way, the Truth, and
the Light, Muhammad’s mistake, which has caused so much misery, may be
repeated, and Christianity rejected in favour of some new religion made
to suit the needs of the moment, but not the needs of eternity. We must
all put our shoulder to the wheel to prevent that.

The Persians are well worth an effort. Numbers of Babis went to their
death in 1903 rather than deny their prophet, and even children have
stood persecution for Christ. “I have a foolish husband,” said one
little girl. “He says he will beat Jesus Christ out of me, but he can
only beat my body, and Jesus Christ is in my heart, so he cannot beat
Him out.”

And the Persians are naturally a religious people, and if their
religious energy could be turned from dead works, formal prayers,
fastings, pilgrimages, divining,--turned to the service of the true and
living God, what a splendid people they might be again, what a force
for God in Asia, and in the world. For the wave of true religious life
would act again on us and help us on. God grant we may yet see the
Persian, stunted as he is by Muhammadanism, grow up to a perfect man to
the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. And what is _our_
part in this great work? It is threefold.

1. _Prayer._ Persia wants our prayers. God wants our prayers for
Persia. We none of us know all the power and possibilities of prayer,
and most of us are surprised when we get direct and obvious answers
to our prayers. It takes us a long time to find out that God answers
all our prayers, but He does. And there are many in Persia who need
our prayers: the missionaries; the converts, often standing alone in a
Muhammadan house or even in a village or in a quarter of the town, with
no Christian friend to encourage them; the inquirers, perplexed as to
the truth, or struggling with their fears of confessing the Saviour in
Whom they have learnt to believe; the untouched Muhammadans, oppressing
or oppressed; the schools, the hospitals and dispensaries, and the
services held week by week in the name of Jesus Christ.

2. _Giving._ We may help to send out missionaries and to keep up the
schools and hospitals, either by giving some of our money, or our time
and work. Have you only five loaves and two small fishes? Our Lord can
use them to feed five thousand men besides women and children.

3. _Personal service._ We cannot all be missionaries in the foreign
field. No, but those who cannot give themselves for foreign service can
do “garrison duty” at home. People often try to dissuade missionaries
from going abroad, telling them they are wanted at home. But they ought
not to be wanted at home; every Christian who cannot go abroad ought to
be doing his share of the work at home, so that those who can go abroad
may be spared.

And you who read this book, if you want to help forward God’s kingdom
in heathen and Muhammadan lands, set to work now at once to fit
yourselves to work as Christian teachers, that you may be ready to
take your place in the ranks here or there as the great Captain
places you. Get to know your Bibles well, studying them if possible
with commentaries or aids. Do not let shyness stand in the way of
your undertaking direct Christian work if you are old enough. Do your
lessons or your work thoroughly and well, and so make yourselves more
fit to be used when the time comes. Get into good habits of healthy
living and simple food. Put away all unkind words and thoughts and
learn to live in charity with all men. Be regular in your prayers
morning and evening, and if possible get a regular time for midday
prayer, even if it is only two minutes, but speak to God too all
through the day--get into the habit of turning to Him at all times. For
whether we work here at home or far away in foreign lands we can only
do God’s work by keeping in close touch with Him.


[A] For the credit of the hospital authorities it must be stated that
they were making every effort to destroy the cat, but had hitherto
failed owing to its wildness and cunning.

[B] This description is taken from the Shiraz copper bazaar.


  Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

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