About it reached Grand Cairo in Egypt, where the dervishes from Yemen, living in a district by themselves, drank coffee on the nights they intended to spend in religious devotion. They kept it in a large red earthen vessel—each in turn receiving it, respectfully, from their superior, in a small bowl, which he dipped into the jar—in the meantime chanting their prayers, the burden of which was always: "There is no God but one God, the true King, whose power is not to be disputed. After the dervishes, the bowl was passed to lay members of the congregation.
In this way coffee came to be so associated with the act of worship that "they never performed a religious ceremony in public and never observed any solemn festival without taking coffee. Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Mecca became so fond of the beverage that, disregarding its religious associations, they made of it a secular drink to be sipped publicly in kaveh kanes , the first coffee houses. Here the idle congregated to drink coffee, to play chess and other games, to discuss the news of the day, and to amuse themselves with singing, dancing, and music, contrary to the manners of the rigid Mahommedans, who were very properly scandalized by such performances.
In Medina and in Cairo, too, coffee became as common a drink as in Mecca and Aden. At length the pious Mahommedans began to disapprove of the use of coffee among the people. For one thing, it made common one of the best psychology-adjuncts of their religion; also, the joy of life, that it helped to liberate among those who frequented the coffee houses, precipitated social, political, and religious arguments; and these frequently developed into disturbances.
Dissensions arose even among the churchmen themselves. They divided into camps for and against coffee. The law of the Prophet on the subject of wine was variously construed as applying to coffee.
About this time Kair Bey was governor of Mecca for the sultan of Egypt. He appears to have been a strict disciplinarian, but lamentably ignorant of the actual conditions obtaining among his people. As he was leaving the mosque one evening after prayers, he was offended by seeing in a corner a company of coffee drinkers who were preparing to pass the night in prayer. His first thought was that they were drinking wine; and great was his astonishment when he learned what the liquor really was and how common was its use throughout the city.
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Further investigation convinced him that indulgence in this exhilarating drink must incline men and women to extravagances prohibited by law, and so he determined to suppress it. First he drove the coffee drinkers out of the mosque. The next day, he called a council of officers of justice, lawyers, physicians, priests, and leading citizens, to whom he declared what he had seen the evening before at the mosque; and, "being resolved to put a stop to the coffee-house abuses, he sought their advice upon the subject. There were also people who played chess, mankala, and other similar games, for money; and there were many other things done contrary to our sacred law—may God keep it from all corruption until the day when we shall all appear before him!
The lawyers agreed that the coffee houses needed reforming; but as to the drink itself, inquiry should be made as to whether it was in any way harmful to mind or body; for if not, it might not be sufficient to close the places that sold it. It was suggested that the opinion of the physicians be sought. Two brothers, Persian physicians named Hakimani, and reputed the best in Mecca, were summoned, although we are told they knew more about logic than they did about physic. One of them came into the council fully prejudiced, as he had already written a book against coffee, and filled with concern for his profession, being fearful lest the common use of the new drink would make serious inroads on the practise of medicine.
His brother joined with him in assuring the assembly that the plant bunn , from which coffee was made, was "cold and dry" and so unwholesome. When another physician present reminded them that Bengiazlah, the ancient and respected contemporary of Avicenna, taught that it was "hot and dry," they made arbitrary answer that Bengiazlah had in mind another plant of the same name, and that anyhow, it was not material; for, if the coffee drink disposed people to things forbidden by religion, the safest course for [Pg 18] Mahommedans was to look upon it as unlawful.
The friends of coffee were covered with confusion. Only the mufti spoke out in the meeting in its favor. Others, carried away by prejudice or misguided zeal, affirmed that coffee clouded their senses. One man arose and said it intoxicated like wine; which made every one laugh, since he could hardly have been a judge of this if he had not drunk wine, which is forbidden by the Mohammedan religion. Upon being asked whether he had ever drunk any, he was so imprudent as to admit that he had, thereby condemning himself out of his own mouth to the bastinado.
The mufti of Aden, being both an officer of the court and a divine, undertook, with some heat, a defense of coffee; but he was clearly in an unpopular minority. He was rewarded with the reproaches and affronts of the religious zealots.
So the governor had his way, and coffee was solemnly condemned as thing forbidden by the law; and a presentment was drawn up, signed by a majority of those present, and dispatched post-haste by the governor to his royal master, the sultan, at Cairo. At the same time, the governor published an edict forbidding the sale of coffee in public or private.
The officers of justice caused all the coffee houses in Mecca to be shut, and ordered all the coffee found there, or in the merchants' warehouses, to be burned. Naturally enough, being an unpopular edict, there were many evasions, and much coffee drinking took place behind closed doors. Some of the friends of coffee were outspoken in their opposition to the order, being convinced that the assembly had rendered a judgment not in accordance with the facts, and above all, contrary to the opinion of the mufti who, in every Arab community, is looked up to as the interpreter, or expounder, of the law.
One man, caught in the act of disobedience, besides being severely punished, was also led through the most public streets of the city seated on an ass. However, the triumph of the enemies of coffee was short-lived; for not only did the sultan of Cairo disapprove the "indiscreet zeal" of the governor of Mecca, and order the edict revoked; but he read him a severe lesson on the subject. How dared he condemn a thing approved at Cairo, the capital of his kingdom, where there were physicians whose opinions carried more weight than those of Mecca, and who had found nothing against the law in the use of coffee?
The best things might be abused, added the sultan, even the sacred waters of Zamzam, but this was no reason for an absolute prohibition. The fountain, or well, of Zamzam, according to the Mohammedan teaching, is the same which God caused to spring up in the desert to comfort Hagar and Ishmael when Abraham banished them. It is in the enclosure of the temple at Mecca; and the Mohammedans drink of it with much show of devotion, ascribing great virtues to it.
It is not recorded whether the misguided governor was shocked at this seeming profanity; but it is known that he hastened to obey the orders of his lord and master. The prohibition was recalled, and thereafter he employed his authority only to preserve order in the coffee houses. The friends of coffee, and the lovers of poetic justice, found satisfaction in the governor's subsequent fate. He was exposed as "an extortioner and a public robber," and "tortured to death," his brother killing himself to avoid the same fate.
France had promised them special protection. A fiction book about cafe owner Fiona Brooks trying to keep Starbucks from invading her little village. When they heard a new rumour, they would declare, quite untruthfully, that they had known it all along. This [coffee] is a kind of pea that grows in Egypt , which the Turks pound and boil in water, and take it for pleasure instead of brandy, sipping it through the lips boiling hot, persuading themselves that it consumes catarrhs, and prevents the rising of vapours out of the stomach into the head. Southern California Live Steamers, Torrance.
The two Persian physicians who had played so mean a part in the first coffee persecution, likewise came to an unhappy end. Being discredited in Mecca they fled to Cairo, where, in an unguarded moment, having cursed the person of Selim I, emperor of the Turks, who had conquered Egypt, they were executed by his order.
enter Coffee, being thus re-established at Mecca, met with no opposition until , when, because of renewed disorders, the kadi of the town closed the coffee houses, but did not seek to interfere with coffee drinking at home and in private. His successor, however, re-licensed them; and, continuing on their good behavior since then, they have not been disturbed.
In a ripple was caused by an order issued by Soliman the Great, forbidding the use of coffee; but no one took it seriously, especially as it soon became known that the order had been obtained "by surprise" and at the desire of only one of the court ladies "a little too nice in this point. One of the most interesting facts in the history of the coffee drink is that wherever it has been introduced it has spelled revolution. It has been the world's most radical drink in that its function has always been to make people think.
And when the people began to think, they became [Pg 19] dangerous to tyrants and to foes of liberty of thought and action. Sometimes the people became intoxicated with their new found ideas; and, mistaking liberty for license, they ran amok, and called down upon their heads persecutions and many petty intolerances. So history repeated itself in Cairo, twenty-three years after the first Mecca persecution. Selim I, after conquering Egypt, had brought coffee to Constantinople in The drink continued its progress through Syria, and was received in Damascus about , and in Aleppo about , without opposition.
Its increasing popularity and, perhaps, the realization that the continued spread of the beverage might lessen the demand for his services, caused a physician of Cairo to propound about to his fellows this question:. What is your opinion concerning the liquor called coffee which is drank in company, as being reckoned in the number of those we have free leave to make use of, notwithstanding it is the cause of no small disorders, that it flies up into the head and is very pernicious to health?
Is it permitted or forbidden? At the end he was careful to add, as his own opinion and without prejudice? To the credit of the physicians of Cairo as a class, it should be recorded that they looked with unsympathetic eyes upon this attempt on the part of one of their number to stir up trouble for a valuable adjunct to their materia medica, and so the effort died a-borning.
If the physicians were disposed to do nothing to stop coffee's progress, not so the preachers. As places of resort, the coffee houses exercised an appeal that proved stronger to the popular mind than that of the temples of worship. This to men of sound religious training was intolerable.
The feeling against coffee smouldered for a time; but in it broke out afresh. In that year a fiery preacher in one of Cairo's mosques so played upon the emotions of his congregation with a preachment against coffee, claiming that it was against the law and that those who drank it were not true Mohammedans, that upon leaving the building a large number of his hearers, enraged, threw themselves into the first coffee house they found in their way, burned the coffee pots and dishes, and maltreated all the persons they found there.
Public opinion was immediately aroused; and the city was divided into two parties; one maintaining that coffee was against the law of Mohammed, and the other taking the contrary view. And then arose a Solomon in the person of the chief justice, who summoned into his presence the learned physicians for consultation. Again the medical profession stood by its guns.
The medical men pointed out to the chief justice that the question had already been decided by their predecessors on the side of coffee, and that the time had come to put some check "on the furious zeal of the bigots" and the "indiscretions of ignorant preachers. By this act he "re-united the contending parties, and brought coffee into greater esteem than ever. The story of the introduction of coffee into Constantinople shows that it experienced much the same vicissitudes that marked its advent at Mecca and Cairo.
There were the same disturbances, the same unreasoning religious superstition, the same political hatreds, the same stupid interference by the civil authorities; and yet, in spite of it all, coffee attained new honors and new fame. The Oriental coffee house reached its supreme development in Constantinople. Although coffee had been known in Constantinople since , it was not until that the inhabitants became acquainted with that great institution of early eastern democracy—the coffee house.
In that year, under the reign of Soliman the Great, son of Selim I, one Schemsi of Damascus and one Hekem of Aleppo opened the first two coffee houses in the quarter called Taktacalah. They were wonderful institutions for those days, remarkable alike for their furnishings and their comforts, as well as for the opportunity they afforded for social intercourse and free discussion.
Schemsi and Hekem received their guests on "very neat couches or sofas," and the admission was the price of a dish of coffee—about one cent. Turks, high and low, took up the idea with avidity.
Coffee houses increased in [Pg 20] number. The demand outstripped the supply. In the seraglio itself special officers kahvedjibachi were commissioned to prepare the coffee drink for the sultan. Coffee was in favor with all classes. The Turks gave to the coffee houses the name kahveh kanes diversoria , Cotovicus called them ; and as they grew in popularity, they became more and more luxurious. There were lounges, richly carpeted; and in addition to coffee, many other means of entertainment.
To these "schools of the wise" came the "young men ready to enter upon offices of judicature; kadis from the provinces, seeking re-instatement or new appointments; muderys, or professors; officers of the seraglio; bashaws; and the principal lords of the port," not to mention merchants and travelers from all parts of the then known world. About , just when coffee seemed settled for all time in the social scheme, the imams and dervishes raised a loud wail against it, saying the mosques were almost empty, while the coffee houses were always full. Then the preachers joined in the clamor, affirming it to be a greater sin to go to a coffee house than to enter a tavern.