A Faithful Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mahometans. In which is a particular relation of their pilgrimage to Mecca, the place of Mahomet’s birth; and a description of Medina and of the Tomb there.
Book ID: 34998
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Pitts was forced into captivity as a slave in Algiers in 1679, when the merchant ship on which he was sailing was captured by an Algerian pirate ship. In 1680, under torture he declared his conversion to Islam. He accompanied his wealthy Algerian master on the pilgrimage to Mecca via Cairo – of which he gives a very graphic account – Suez and Jeddah. After fifteen years in captivity he succeeded in escaping, but on his first night back in England he was impressed for the Royal Navy, but managed, with difficulty, to obtain his release.
His work is the first authentic record by an Englishman of the pilgrimage to Mecca and gives a brief but sensible and consistent account of what he saw. [Sotheby’s catalogue].
The first edition appeared in 1704 and the third edition in 1738. In the preface to this edition the author complained that the second edition was published without his permission and that it contained many inaccuracies. Pitts had the advantage of being able to refer to the works of some Arab and European historians. The first geography of Arabia was published at the Medici Press in 1592, containing material written by Idrissi. The traveller and polyglot Jean de Thévenot had also brought attention to some of the major Arabic authorities in his journals, the Arabic sections of which were published between 1674 and 1684. Pitts corrected Thévenot’s description of Mecca saying “M. Thévenot is very exact in almost everything of Turkish matters, and I pay much difference to that great author D’Herbelot Bibliothèque Orientale which was published in 1697…”. Pitts gained access to the mosques of Algiers after his conversion to Islam, and since he had studied the religious ceremonies of Islam, his command of Arabic and Turkish was excellent. Pitts accompanied his master on a pilgrimage to Mecca and recorded every single event during his pilgrimage. Pitts remained four months in Mecca.
Bibliographic reference: Hilmy II, 121 & 122 for 1731 and 1704 edition.