I. IN an age when less communication and greater rivalry prevailed between the nations of the East and West, it was natural for each to regard the institutions of the other, and all that emanated from them, with depre­ciation and dislike. The lurking consciousness entertained on both sides, that either was involuntarily a debtor to the other, for social improvements of so important a character as to force their way into national use, either before national prejudice was awake to their origin or in spite of all the obstacles which such prejudice could oppose to their reception, must have tended to aggravate rather than appease this mutual irritation. To blind unreasoning animosity there is no greater spur than the suspicion that it is unjustly entertained; for to be compelled to condemn themselves is the keenest injury that antagonists can sustain from each other. At present the question of superiority is so fully determined in our favour, that on our side, at least, the jealousy should cease; and some readers would be indignant if they were told that its relics have any existence in their own minds. Yet if the attention which they would otherwise be disposed to pay to the subject matter of the following pages is, in the present instance, at all affected by the fact of oriental character and origin — if they suffer themselves to be repelled by the vague war-cries of heathenism and Muhammedan licentiousness, when they ought to be searching in the work itself to discover the extent to which these may really prevail, and the most hopeful means of correcting them as prevailing — they would do well to consider whether they may not be amenable to some such charge: whether, if the moral code here propounded, were that of some people equally misunderstood, but between whom and themselves no hostile feeling had ever prevailed, they would be equally indifferent to the sources of truth and the materials of amendment; and if not, whether the original bias is indeed so completely removed as the honor and interests of an intellectual age and country would seem to require. The mere rivalry so long and closely maintained by the Muslims, not so much with ourselves as with all the western nations, ought to be sufficient to bespeak our interest and attention, even if there were nothing else in their previous history or internal condition calculated to attract our notice. From the eighth to the sixteenth century the contest seemed to threaten the liberties of Europe. The Turkish and Egyptian dynasties — mere outposts of the great body of Islām — were able at different periods to encounter and baffle the united forces of Chris­tendom; and while Europeans consoled themselves with imputing to their adversaries a social barbarism and vitia­tion inconsistent with their political power, they tacitly belied the flattering apology by borrowing* that scholastic literature, which, however worthless as an end, was valu­able enough as a means, to raise the borrowers to their present state of mental and physical superiority. Of a people once so distinguished in the opposite achievements of arts and arms, are the laws and habits of action to be counted among the contemptible phenomena of history? Look at their results as compared with those of other institutions; even (at one time) of our own. Are they worthy of authentic elucidation and remark? The fol­lowing is their own exposition of them; formed in the age of their greatest prosperity, and received by their then most polished people as the completest ever produced.

II. During the infancy of the Osmānly empire, while its shocks were already felt to the remotest limits of Europe, but before it had completed the occupation of the fairest of European provinces, its energies were curbed and con­trolled on the east by the imposing aspect and vast resources of that great central monarchy, which, differing only in its limits and the blood of its ruling tribe, has always been paramount in the heart of Asia. In the days of which we speak it had lately been restored with unusual splendour by the arms of the great Timúr, and was still governed by the greatest of his descendants. The æra of Ulug Bēg and Husain Abulghāzy (or latter half of the fifteenth century) may indeed be considered as the Augus­tan age of Persian letters. Few potentates of that time but were themselves adepts in the learning they patronized. Ulug Bēg was a distinguished astronomer; Abulghāzy a poet and essayist of no mean rank. At the court of the latter, in particular, his excessive encouragement of the lighter literature to which he was devoted, had raised up a host of polished and enlightened writers, who seemed to make up, in elegance of expression and refinement of idea, for the want of that solidity and power, which is seldom to be found except in the train of re-action from the hardships of unmerited neglect. Over estimation proves in the end the most fatal form of discouragement.

While the Timúrian princes of this period were strug­gling with each other for paramount supremacy, or devoting themselves in supineness to an ostentatious rather than a wise cultivation of their subjects’ interests, a character of a far different school rose silently into power on their south-western frontier. This was Hasán Bēg, the representative of a house placed by Timúr in preca­rious authority over the province of Mesopotamia, and forced to depend for the maintenance of their position, not on the influence of a name, but on a perpetual and practical display of nature’s best title, the ability to main­tain it. Called late in life, with the example of his brother’s inefficient reign before him, to defend a tottering throne against the assaults of surrounding powers, each his more than equal in all resources but those which lay within him, his short and triumphant administration pre­sents a singular mixture of audacity and caution, each alternately pursued on their appropriate occasions to a suc­cessful issue, which stamps him as one of the most remarkable, though not (from the insignificance of his dominions) the most remarked, of the Asiatic potentates of his day. By this dexterous management of perilous junc­tures occurring in the early years of his short reign, two hostile princes, one of them the reigning Mogul, were cap­tured and put to death; and such was the resolute demeanour he maintained, and the capacity on which it was known to rest, that Abulghāzy, the succeeding emperor, dreaded to attack though unable to conciliate him. His next attempt entitles him in some sort to be considered as an auxiliary of the Christian cause, being directed against the Turks, then hardened by yearly contests with the Hungarian chivalry, and led by the enterprising con­queror of Constantinople, Muhammad II. In an invasion of their empire he was repulsed; but the light in which he was held as an antagonist may be inferred from the fact, that his dominions were safe from reprisals as long as he was alive to defend them: and had his reign been one of longer duration, the words of the panegyrist* who asserts his ability to become the paramount sovereign of Asia, might have been justified by the event.

Under the auspices of this prince, and in analogy, it may be said, as regards the prevailing literature of that period, with his political position, the “Akhlāk-i-Jalāly” was produced: a work, which, in the importance of its subject matter, and the forcible character of its treatment and language, contrasts strongly with the empty elegance of the compositions most in vogue at the court of Abul­ghāzy. On this too, as on other occasions, the victory of letters proved more durable than that of arms. Long after the names and fortunes of their respective patrons had been consigned to the sepulchre of history, the “Akhlāk-i-Jalāly” continued to afford delight and instruction to statesmen,* while the polished essays of Kāshify and Suhaily were abandoned to the imitation of boys.

III. Those who are acquainted with the slow and laborious progress of human improvement, and who know how much more the individual is always indebted to the age than the age can be to the individual, will not be disposed to think less highly of the work when they are told that it is far from being an original one. Whether the knowledge of any writer or of any age can be said to be self-created, is a question that will recur in another place. For the present it will be sufficient to observe, that in modern Europe at least, where more has been done to solve the great problem of human felicity than at any previous epoch of the world, the successive changes of life and feeling have, all along, been only so many improved applications of what for ages have been given principles. In common then, at least, with the authorities to which we are all accustomed to appeal, the “Akhlāk-i-Jalāly” is not the first but the best digest of the important topics on which it treats. The study of morals, indeed, being that which has the closest connexion with religious persuasions, was likewise that to which the attention of the Muhammedan world was earliest directed; and it seems that the stricter sciences were then recom­mended and introduced, only by the bearing they were found to possess upon this one.* At a time when it would have been held impiety to propound any principles of con­duct for which an authority could not be found in their Scripture texts, the ingenuity of the Muslim schoolmen was exercised in reducing to this simple standard the phenomena of a social state wholly different from that to which it had been intended to apply; and the result was, of course, a chaos of scholastic subtlety and jargon, which insensibly operated its own extinction.* A simpler and sounder process came gradually into vogue; which was first to ascertain that course of action and that rule of duty which was most agreeable to the interests of the individual and the species, and, this being found, to assume it by self-evidence for that line of conduct which it must have been their Prophet’s object to instil. Having thus detached morals from religion, they found no dif­ficulty in consulting and adopting the opinions of their predecessors in power, the Byzantine Greeks; and the works of pagan philosophers became the laws of action to a people who mastered half the world only to abolish paganism. Not only such universal authorities as Abú Nasar and Avicenna, but even the minor luminaries of provincial capitals, now made it their endeavour to com­pile and digest the systems of the Grecian masters (partly studied in translation, but more often transferred in extract from writer to writer,) into the form best recon­cilable with the exigencies of their social system and the peculiarities of their religious belief. The most successful efforts of the entire people may be said to be concentrated in the work before us; but the treatise from which it more peculiarly originates is the “Kitāb-ul-Tahārat,” an Arabic work composed in the tenth century by Abú Aly Mashkovy, the minister of the imperial house of Búyah.* The work being inaccessible in this country, we can only judge of it by what we find in its transcribers; but this is enough to convince us that it is an amalgam of the Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy, carried out however to most minute practical applications, and this in a manner which leaves little doubt that the author, or those to whom he was indebted, had the benefit of lower classics not extant, or, at least, not in vogue among our­selves. Two centuries later it was translated into Persian, under the title of “Akhlāk-i-Nāsiry,” by the celebrated Nāsirodín Túsy; with the important addition, however, of treatises on the domestic and political states, mostly taken, we are assured, the first from Avicenna, the second from Abú Nasar,* — themselves the most distinguished followers of the Grecian school. This improved compi­lation it is, which, re-written and revived with the additional acumen and experience of three more centuries, by a writer of whom no further particulars are at present known, again appears before us under the title of “Akh­lāk-i-Jalāly. ” The comparative merits of these two latter works are characteristic of the æras in science to which the writers respectively belong: the first dealing more with principles than consequences — as clear and col­lected in the strength of his own convictions as he was diffident of the reception they might obtain from others — minute to satiety, and cautious to the sacrifice of his own advantages; — the second rather neglectful of fundamentals in his haste to arrive at that which they involved — impressing at a hazard on the reader’s mind that which was hardly ascertained in his own — familiar with mysteries which the other seldom ventured to approach, — and adorning them with an enthusiastic eloquence which the other was seldom at liberty to indulge in. This free and fervid character of treatment it is, as well as higher developement of subject, which more peculiarly qualifies the Jalāly for the task of advocating its own merits in the face of other nations, and winning, let us hope, for itself and others of its class, the tardy acknowledgment of an enlightened age. To those who are wise enough to wel­come Truth on its own account, in whatever garb appear­ing, the Nāsiry might perhaps be the more valuable and congenial performance. But to most minds something is necessary to kindle as well as instruct. The Jalāly makes us sympathize as well as perceive. There is something Ciceronian in the veneration with which he encircles knowledge, and the delight with which he unveils it. He speaks not only with the certainty, but the exultation, befitting one, who strives to renew and perpetuate “the voice which has gone forth through all lands.”