#15: A memorable sermon (c.1902)
Another sermon story from the mosque begs to be recorded.
Men sin, said the earnest preacher, because they forget God,
and they forget God because they love the world too much.
Humanity is like a man walking across a plain who finds
himself pursued by a lion. Running at top speed and casting
about for some refuge from the danger he finds a well with
a platform half way down where he reaches temporary safety.
The lion comes to the mouth of the well and threatens to
tear him in pieces if he tries to escape. As he looks, he
sees a huge dragon at the bottom of the well ready to
devour him if he falls. And then he sees two mice, a black
mouse and a white one, coming out of the sides of the well
and beginning to gnaw away the supports of the frail
platform on which he has found security. But the man,
foolish fellow, having food and drink with him by chance,
begins to eat and drink and make merry without meditating
on the threatening dangers of the situation. Then the
preacher said, in effect, may God Almighty have mercy
upon us and deliver us from the temptations and dangers
of the world, the flesh and the devil. The great assembly
of hundreds of strong men knelt and rose, knelt and rose
again, pouring forth earnest prayers for divine salvation
As we walked away from the service, I remarked to my
Moslem friend with whom I had visited the mosque, "That
was a good story that the hodja told about the man in
the well". He assented that it was a very good story.
I said it seemed to me that one point was omitted.
"What was that", he asked. I replied that I did not
hear the preacher tell how the man could escape out
of his danger. Did he point that out? My companion
had not noticed or heard anything about that. "Well",
I said, "what would you say? You're a Moslem. There's
no doubt about the temptations and dangers for all
of us in the life of this world. The question is how
to escape them all. What would you say about that"?
"I declare I don't know", was his answer. And Moslems
do not know so far as I could ever learn from my many
friends. Islam can depict the frailty and the foibles
of men as vividly as it can depict the majesty and
the mercy of God, but it has no available way of
escape to propose, it has no way of salvation, no
Savior, no Redeemer.
By degrees we came to realize that from about one-
fourth to one-third of our Turkish friends and
neighbors were not orthodox Sunni Mohammedans but
were unorthodox Shia or Alevi sectaries. Their
professed religion was largely camouflage. As a
semi-separate clan or tribe, usually in separate
villages of their own, they were pitiably ignorant,
secretive and superstitious.
NEXT: The Alevi Turks (c. 1902)
to "OTTOMAN ANATOLIA"