Montesquieu

Usbek to the mul­lah Muhammed Ali, guar­dian of the three Tombs at Com1


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 under­gone3 ; a Christian mufti can barely sus­tain it4 ; the great vizier of Germany5 is the scourge of God,6 sent to chas­tise the fol­lo­wers of Omar7 ; 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

See letters 15 and 16.

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

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

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

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

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

See 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.

An 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.