Barbary, Religion of

Barbary, Religion Of The states of Barbary is a general name for the whole northern coast of Africa,with the exception of Egypt. The inhabitants are chiefly zealous and bigoted Mohammedans — more bigoted, indeed, than the communion of Islam in any other country. From their tolbas, or spiritual instructors, very little real knowledge is derived. There is no connection between the ministers of religion and the government, as in other Mohammedan countries; nor is there any corporate body, like the ulema in Turkey, to preserve and maintain the doctrine and discipline of the Church. The veneration of the people is bestowed almost exclusively upon a class of persons called marabouts, who, through absurd pretensions to supernatural power and an intercourse with invisible beings, raise themselves to the character of saints. Idiots and madmen are uniformly reputed holy. The higher class of saints, or marabouts, are second only to the king, if they do not rival him. The emperors of Morocco have been long accustomed, by high pretensions to sanctity, to heighten the respect of their subjects. A marabout discharges the duties of a priest, is an averter of evil, and a manufacturer of talismans and amulets, besides performing many strange tricks with the view of exciting wonder and admiration. He has the privilege of granting sanctuary to any accused person, whether innocent or guilty, and even of affording protection to any one who has incurred the displeasure of the sovereign himself. In the Barbary states superstitions of various kinds prevail. The great mass of the people have a firm belief in an evil eye. Serpent-charmers are to be found exciting the wonder of all observers. Among the inhabitants of the northern coasts of Africa deceased relatives are held in great veneration. Every Friday evening "the feast of the dead" is held, when the people repair to the tombs of their ancestors, who are supposed to be present on that evening, and to share in the festival which is celebrated there. See Broughton [Mrs.], Six Years' Residence in Algiers.

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