goes on to this very day. The early eighteenth-century jihad was organized by Sufi fundamentalists of the Naqshban
di order. I enjoyed the author’s
romantic portrait of the great hero Shamyl, third Imam of Dagestan, who had been gravely wounded in battle. He was recuperating in the mountains, where he was visited by his slim and graceful wife Fatimat. "Like all Caucasian women, Fatimat was very slim and graceful...It was the custom for Caucasian girls to be laced into tight corselets of deerskin which constricted and formed their narrow bodies... The corselet was put on, with ceremony, around the age of eight, and it was never removed until their marriage, generally at the age of fourteen, or thereabouts, when it was the bridegroom's privilege to rip open the seams with his kindjal." Or he might ceremoniously untie knot after knot, and be ridiculed for any apparent impatience. Now Fatimat's husband Shamyl was a preacher of Shariat, strict Muslim law, which was the Islamic demonstration of Caucasian unity against the Russian infidels. Being a Sufi shaykh, he was committed to the disciplined ascetic life which fits in rather nicely with the life of a ghazi, i.e. a warrior for the Faith. While he was nursing his wounds in the shepherd's hut, his sister visited him adorned with jewelry, treasure salvaged from the destroyed village where he was wounded; the sight of opulence caused his wounds to burst open. A few authors attribute the outrageous reaction to an old superstition among the mountain folk, that precious stones prevent wounds from healing, but Lesley tells the more popular story, that is, the politically correct one most probably insisted on by Shamyl himself: "Later (after he he suffered his relapse), when Shamyl insisted on miraculous powers and divine support, he used to declare his wounds had reopened in a protest directed by Allah against his sister's jewels, against her wanton display of earthly treasures wholly unacceptable to the Lord. And there was no one who cared to dispute it." But apparently Shamyl was not altogether opposed to a modicum of luxury or lust where his beloved wife was concerned. No doubt he loved to visit Fatimat between his campaigns. She was a Daghestani gentlewoman: her customary attire was rather elegant: "...loose, flowered silk trousers, almost hidden by a full-skirted, tight-wasted surcoat with wide, flowing sleeves and elaborate silver-braided fastenings. A great many gold and silver coins hung from the end of the long black braids... Fine muslin veils and colored silk kerchiefs were wound round her head and across her face when she left the privacy of her quarters; and on gala occasions she wore a tall pointed cap or head-dress, from which more veils flowed. In summer, she went barefooted; in winter her slippers were protected from the mud and snow by high wooden clogs or pattens. Instead of the bourka which men wore against the piercing Caucasian winters, she was wrapped in an embroidered felt cloak lined with fox skins, or sables even."