means the slightest. Hence we begin by stating what is known of these sectaries, who are mentioned again in Surah II., Al Baqarah, 59.

Our knowledge of the Sabians is slight, but sufficient for our purpose. An early Arabic writer, Abu ‘Isa'l Maghribi, is quoted by Abu'l Fida as giving the following account of them. "The Syrians are the most ancient of nations, and Adam and his sons spoke their language. Their religious community is that of the Sabians, and they relate that they received their religion from Seth and Idris (Enoch). They have a book which they ascribe to Seth, and they style it ‘The Book of Seth.’ In it good ethical precepts are recorded, such as enjoin truth-speaking and courage and giving protection to the stranger and such like: and evil practices are mentioned and command given to abstain from them. The Sabians had certain religious rites, among which are seven fixed times of prayer, five of which correspond with that of the Muslims. The sixth is the prayer at dawn, and the seventh a prayer, the time for which is at the end of the sixth hour of the night. Their prayer, like that of Muslims, is one which requires real earnestness and that the worshiper should not let his attention wander to anything else when offering it. They prayed over the dead without either bowing down or prostration, and fasted thirty days; and if the month of the new moon were a short one, then they kept the fast for twenty-nine


days. In connexion with their fast they observed the festivals of Fitr" (breaking the fast at the end of the month) "and Hilal" (new moon), "in such a way that the festival of Fitr occurred when the sun entered Aries. And they used to fast from the fourth quarter of the night until the setting of the disk of the sun. And they had festivals at the time of the descending of the five planets to the mansions of their dignity. The five planets are Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury. And they used to honour the House of Mecca" (the Ka'bah)1.

From this account we see clearly that the Muslims have borrowed from this obscure sect not a few of their religious practices all of which they believe were taught them by Muhammad at the command of God through the Angel Gabriel. For example, the Ramadan fast of the Muslims lasts 2 a month, from sunrise to sunset, though the rule as to the exact moment when each day begins and ends is, as we shall see 3, derived from the Jews. In Persia and some other countries a gun is fired at dawn and sunset to announce the beginning and end of each day's fast during the holy month. The Fitr feast at the end of the month is still celebrated by the Muhammadans. They have, as is well known, five stated times of prayer each day, but they have also two other times each day at which

1 Abu'l Fida, At Tawarikhu'l Qadimah (Hist. Ante-Islamica), p. 148.
2 Vide also p. 269.
3 Vide pp. 127, 128.