AS two classes of men are repeatedly mentioned in the course of this work, of whom it is difficult to form a clear notion; and as I have no where met with a more sensible and perspicuous description of them, than in the admirably judicious and well written Account of the Kingdom of Caubul, By the Hon. Mountstuart Elphinstone, 1819.

I have made from it the following extracts.

On the Sofis.

Another sect in Caubul is that of the Soofees, who ought, perhaps, to be considered as a class of philosophers, rather than of religionists. As far as I can understand their mysterious doctrine, their leading tenet seems to be, that the whole of the animated and inanimate creation is an illusion; and that nothing exists except the Supreme Being, which presents itself under an infinity of shapes to the soul of man, itself a portion of the divine essence. The contemplation of this doctrine raises the Soofees to the utmost pitch of enthusiasm. They admire God in every thing; and, by frequent meditation on his attributes, and by tracing him through all his forms, they imagine that they attain to an ineffable love for the Deity, and even to an entire union with his substance. As a necessary con­sequence of this theory, they consider the peculiar tenets of every religion as superfluities, and discard all rites and religious worship, regarding it as a matter of little impor­tance in what manner the thoughts are turned to God, provided they rest at last in contemplation on his good­ness and greatness. This sect is persecuted in Persia, and though not discountenanced by the government in Caubul, is held in great aversion by the Moollahs, who accuse its followers of Atheism, and often endeavour to entrap them into some doctrines which are liable to punishment by the Mahomedan law; but these attempts are seldom successful; one obstacle to their accomplish­ment is, that many of the Soofees are sincere Mahomedans, notwithstanding the inconsistency of the two doc­trines. I have heard a man expatiate with rapture on the beauty of the Soofee system, and on the enlarged and liberal views of human actions to which it leads; who has soon after, in the same company, stickled for every tenet of Islaum, and rejected with horror the idea of doubting the eternity of hell-fire: when the difficulty of reconciling this doctrine with the belief that nothing existed but God was pointed out; he said that the system of the Soofees was certainly true, but that the eternity of hell was proved by the word of God himself.

The sect, however, is gaining ground, particularly among the higher orders, and such of the Moollahs as apply themselves to general literature; and its obscure sublimity is admirably suited to the taste of that class. The love of mystery, indeed, which is so remarkable among them, induces them to form the highest notions of every thing that is concealed, and has even occasioned a lively curiosity about free-masonry. I have often been questioned regarding it, and have heard the opinions which have been formed of its nature. All that is known of it was communicated by a certain Dervise, who travelled into European countries, and who gave this account of his initiation in the mystery. He was directed to enter a particular building, and after passing through winding passages, and crossing several courts, he reached an apart­ment where eight persons were seated. They seemed all transported and disordered by their own reflections, and their countenances bore the marks of inspiration. The Dervise there learned unutterable things, and acquired more knowledge on the most sublime subjects from a moment's intercourse with those sages, than could have been gained by years of laborious study. Vol. i. p. 328.

On the Mollas.

The Moollahs are very numerous, and are found in every rank, from the chief courtiers and ministers to the lowest class in the poorest and wildest tribes. They are most numerous in proportion to the body of the people about towns. When mentioned as a body, they are usually called Ulema (or learned).

They are generally active, and comparatively able men, much attached to the interests of their own body, and careful to maintain its ascendancy. They are in posses­sion of the greatest part of the learning of the country. The education of the youth, the practice of the law, and the administration of justice in all parts of the country, completely under the royal authority, are entirely intrusted to them: and these advantages, together with the respect which their superior knowledge commands among an ignorant and superstitious people, enable the Moollahs in some circumstances to exercise an almost unlimited power over individuals, and even over bodies of men; to check and controul the governors and other civil officers; and sometimes to intimidate and endanger the King him­self. This power is employed to punish practices contrary to the Mahomedan law, when they occur among its ortho­dox professors; to repress Sheahs, and other infidels; and, at least as often, to revenge the wrongs or forward the interests of individuals of the religious order. The influence of the Moollahs is often more beneficially exerted in reconciling quarrels in parts of the country where there are no other means of preserving the public peace. Troops of these holy personages often come with their flowing robes into the midst of two Oolooses, drawn out for battle. They hold out the Koraun, repeat Arabic prayers, exhort the people to remember their God, and their common religion; and seldom, if ever, fail to dis­perse them for the time, if they do not bring about a per­manent reconciliation.

The Moollahs are particularly powerful about Peshâver, and through all the Berdooraunee country. In the city of Peshâver, the King's authority keeps them in some restraint, and obliges them to seek redress for private injuries from the civil power, or to wait an opportunity of fastening on their enemy some charge of heresy or infidelity, which may expose him to the bigotry of the people, or to the legal persecution of the Cauzi; but, in the remote parts of that country, an injury or an insult to a Moollah would itself be sufficient to raise a tumult. On these occasions, the Moollahs send round to their brethren to assemble, suspend the public worship and the ceremo­nies of burial, pronounce their antagonists infidels, and formally excommunicate and curse them. If this fails in forcing their enemies to submit, they parade the country with the green standard of the prophet, beating drums, and proclaiming the Selaut (or war-cry of the Musulmans). They announce, that all who fall in their cause will be martyrs, and that all who fail to join them are excommu­nicated. By these means, they soon assemble a mob (or as they call it themselves an army); and, as the Afghauns are more afraid of their anathemas than their arms, they generally bring their adversaries to their terms, which include the right to plunder and burn the houses of the chief offenders and to impose a fine on their abettors.