Letter 119

, par Stewart

Usbek to the mullah Muhammed Ali, guardian of the three Tombs at Com [1]

What good do the fastings of the Immaums and the mullahs’ hair-shirts do us ? [2] The hand of God has twice grown heavy on the children of the Law : the sun becomes dark and seems to shine only on their defeats ; their armies assembled, and were scattered like dust.

The Osmanli empire is shaken by the two greatest failures it has ever undergone [3] ; a Christian mufti can barely sustain it [4] ; the great vizier of Germany [5] is the scourge of God, [6] sent to chastise the followers of Omar [7] ; everywhere he spreads the wrath of heaven angered by their rebellion and their betrayal. [8]

Sacred spirit of the Immaums, you weep night and day over the children of the Prophet whom the detestable Omar has led astray ; your entrails are stirred at the sight of their calamities ; you desire their conversion and not their loss : you would see them reunited under the standard of Ali by the tears of the saints, and not dispersed into the mountains and deserts by terror of the infidels.

Paris this 1st day of the moon of Chalval 1718

Supplementary Letter VI from the 1758 edition would be placed here


[1See letters 15 and 16.

[2See letter 17 ; the vanity of fastingand hair-shirts was mentioned earlier in letter 90.

[3On the weakness of the Turkish empire, see letter 18.

[4Doubtless an allusion to Giulio Alberoni, who wanted to prolong the Oriental war in order to realize his own European projects.

[5The emperor Charles VI. In the period dictionaries, vizier is given as a strictly Turkish term, with the meaning of minister of state.

[6This expression was habitually applied to enemies of the Christian religion as well, as was the word infidels found below.

[7See letters 18 and 58. The Sunni Turks are the disciples of Omar, successor of Abu Bakr, and are opponents of the Shiite Persians, disciples of Ali.

[8An allusion to the victories of Petervarad (August 1716, followed by the taking of Temesvar in October) and of Belgrade (August 1717) over the Turks by Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), general of the imperial army of Charles VI. The fall of Belgrade was largely symbolical, but it caused the death of ten thousand Turks.