Part 1 out of 14
TRANSLATED FROM THE ARABIC BY THE REV. J.M. RODWELL, M.A. WITH AN
INTRODUCTION BY THE REV. G. MARGOLIOUTH, M.A.
Introduction Preface Index
Sura Number (this edition) Sura Number (Arabic text) Title
1 96 Thick Blood or Clots of Blood
2 74 The Enwrapped
3 73 The Enfolded
4 93 The Brightness
5 94 The Opening
6 113 The Daybreak
7 114 Men
8 1 Sura I.
9 109 Unbelievers
10 112 The Unity
11 111 Abu Lahab
12 108 The Abundance
13 104 The Backbiter
14 107 Religion
15 102 Desire
16 92 The Night
17 68 The Pen
18 90 The Soil
19 105 The Elephant
20 106 The Koreisch
21 97 Power
22 86 The Night-Comer
23 91 The Sun
24 80 He Frowned
25 87 The Most High
26 95 The Fig
27 103 The Afternoon
28 85 The Starry
29 101 The Blow
30 99 The Earthquake
31 82 The Cleaving
32 81 The Folded Up
33 84 The Splitting Asunder
34 100 The Chargers
35 79 Those Who Drag Forth
36 77 The Sent
37 78 The News
38 88 The Overshadowing
39 89 The Daybreak
40 75 The Resurrection
41 83 Those Who Stint
42 69 The Inevitable
43 51 The Scattering
44 52 The Mountain
45 56 The Inevitable
46 53 The Star
47 70 The Steps or Ascents
48 55 The Merciful
49 54 The Moon
50 37 The Ranks
51 71 Noah
52 76 Man
53 44 Smoke
54 50 Kaf
55 20 Ta. Ha.
56 26 The Poets
57 15 Hedjr
58 19 Mary
59 38 Sad
60 36 Ya. Sin
61 43 Ornaments of Gold
62 72 Djinn
63 67 The Kingdom
64 23 The Believers
65 21 The Prophets
66 25 Al Furkan
67 17 The Night Journey
68 27 The Ant
69 18 The Cave
70 32 Adoration
71 41 The Made Plain
72 45 The Kneeling
73 16 The Bee
74 30 The Greeks
75 11 Houd
76 14 Abraham, On Whom Be Peace
77 12 Joseph, Peace Be On Him
78 40 The Believer
79 28 The Story
80 39 The Troops
81 29 The Spider
82 31 Lokman
83 42 Counsel
84 10 Jonah, Peace Be On Him!
85 34 Saba
86 35 The Creator, or The Angels
87 7 Al Araf
88 46 Al Ahkaf
89 6 Cattle
90 13 Thunder
91 2 The Cow
92 98 Clear Evidence
93 64 Mutual Deceit
94 62 The Assembly
95 8 The Spoils
96 47 Muhammad
97 3 The Family of Imran
98 61 Battle Array
99 57 Iron
100 4 Women
101 65 Divorce
102 59 The Emigration
103 33 The Confederates
104 63 The Hypocrites
105 24 Light
106 58 She Who Pleaded
107 22 The Pilgrimage
108 48 The Victory
109 66 The Forbidding
110 60 She Who Is Tried
111 110 HELP
112 49 The Apartments
113 9 Immunity
114 5 The Table
MOHAMMED was born at Mecca in A.D. 567 or 569. His flight (hijra) to Medina,
which marks the beginning of the Mohammedan era, took place on 16th June 622.
He died on 7th June 632.
THE Koran admittedly occupies an important position among the great religious
books of the world. Though the youngest of the epoch-making works belonging
to this class of literature, it yields to hardly any in the wonderful effect
which it has produced on large masses of men. It has created an all but new
phase of human thought and a fresh type of character. It first transformed a
number of heterogeneous desert tribes of the Arabian peninsula into a nation
of heroes, and then proceeded to create the vast politico-religious
organisations of the Muhammedan world which are one of the great forces with
which Europe and the East have to reckon to-day.
The secret of the power exercised by the book, of course, lay in the mind
which produced it. It was, in fact, at first not a book, but a strong living
voice, a kind of wild authoritative proclamation, a series of admonitions,
promises, threats, and instructions addressed to turbulent and largely
hostile assemblies of untutored Arabs. As a book it was published after the
prophet's death. In Muhammed's life-time there were only disjointed notes,
speeches, and the retentive memories of those who listened to them. To speak
of the Koran is, therefore, practically the same as speaking of Muhammed, and
in trying to appraise the religious value of the book one is at the same time
attempting to form an opinion of the prophet himself. It would indeed be
difficult to find another case in which there is such a complete identity
between the literary work and the mind of the man who produced it.
That widely different estimates have been formed of Muhammed is well-known.
To Moslems he is, of course, the prophet par excellence, and the Koran is
regarded by the orthodox as nothing less than the eternal utterance of Allah.
The eulogy pronounced by Carlyle on Muhammed in Heroes and Hero Worship will
probably be endorsed by not a few at the present day. The extreme contrary
opinion, which in a fresh form has recently been revived1 by an able writer,
is hardly likely to find much lasting support. The correct view very probably
lies between the two extremes. The relative value of any given system of
religious thought must depend on the amount of truth which it embodies as
well as on the ethical standard which its adherents are bidden to follow.
Another important test is the degree of originality that is to be assigned to
it, for it can manifestly only claim credit for that which is new in it, not
for that which it borrowed from other systems.
With regard to the first-named criterion, there is a growing opinion among
students of religious history that Muhammed may in a real sense be regarded
as a prophet of certain truths, though by no means of truth in the absolute
meaning of the term. The shortcomings of the moral teaching contained in the
Koran are striking enough if judged from the highest ethical standpoint with
which we are acquainted; but a much more favourable view is arrived at if a
comparison is made between the ethics of the Koran and the moral tenets of
Arabian and other forms of heathenism which it supplanted.
The method followed by Muhammed in the promulgation of the Koran also
requires to be treated with discrimination. From the first flash of prophetic
inspiration which is clearly discernible in the earlier portions of the book
he, later on, frequently descended to deliberate invention and artful
rhetoric. He, in fact, accommodated his moral sense to the circumstances in
which the r\oc\le he had to play involved him.
On the question of originality there can hardly be two opinions now that the
Koran has been thoroughly compared with the Christian and Jewish traditions
of the time; and it is, besides some original Arabian legends, to those only
that the book stands in any close relationship. The matter is for the most
part borrowed, but the manner is all the prophet's own. This is emphatically
a case in which originality consists not so much in the creation of new
materials of thought as in the manner in which existing traditions of various
kinds are utilised and freshly blended to suit the special exigencies of the
occasion. Biblical reminiscences, Rabbinic legends, Christian traditions
mostly drawn from distorted apocryphal sources, and native heathen stories,
all first pass through the prophet's fervid mind, and thence issue in strange
new forms, tinged with poetry and enthusiasm, and well adapted to enforce his
own view of life and duty, to serve as an encouragement to his faithful
adherents, and to strike terror into the hearts of his opponents.
There is, however, apart from its religious value, a more general view from
which the book should be considered. The Koran enjoys the distinction of
having been the starting-point of a new literary and philosophical movement
which has powerfully affected the finest and most cultivated minds among both
Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages. This general progress of the
Muhammedan world has somehow been arrested, but research has shown that what
European scholars knew of Greek philosophy, of mathematics, astronomy, and
like sciences, for several centuries before the Renaissance, was, roughly
speaking, all derived from Latin treatises ultimately based on Arabic
originals; and it was the Koran which, though indirectly, gave the first
impetus to these studies among the Arabs and their allies. Linguistic
investigations, poetry, and other branches of literature, also made their
appearance soon after or simultaneously with the publication of the Koran;
and the literary movement thus initiated has resulted in some of the finest
products of genius and learning.
The style in which the Koran is written requires some special attention in
this introduction. The literary form is for the most part different from
anything else we know. In its finest passages we indeed seem to hear a voice
akin to that of the ancient Hebrew prophets, but there is much in the book
which Europeans usually regard as faulty. The tendency to repetition which is
an inherent characteristic of the Semitic mind appears here in an exaggerated
form, and there is in addition much in the Koran which strikes us as wild and
fantastic. The most unfavourable criticism ever passed on Muhammed's style
has in fact been penned by the prophet's greatest British admirer, Carlyle
himself; and there are probably many now who find themselves in the same
dilemma with that great writer.
The fault appears, however, to lie partly in our difficulty to appreciate the
psychology of the Arab prophet. We must, in order to do him justice, give
full consideration to his temperament and to the condition of things around
him. We are here in touch with an untutored but fervent mind, trying to
realise itself and to assimilate certain great truths which have been
powerfully borne in upon him, in order to impart them in a convincing form to
his fellow-tribesmen. He is surrounded by obstacles of every kind, yet he
manfully struggles on with the message that is within him. Learning he has
none, or next to none. His chief objects of knowledge are floating stories
and traditions largely picked up from hearsay, and his over-wrought mind is
his only teacher. The literary compositions to which he had ever listened
were the half-cultured, yet often wildly powerful rhapsodies of early Arabian
minstrels, akin to Ossian rather than to anything else within our knowledge.
What wonder then that his Koran took a form which to our colder temperaments
sounds strange, unbalanced, and fantastic?
Yet the Moslems themselves consider the book the finest that ever appeared
among men. They find no incongruity in the style. To them the matter is all
true and the manner all perfect. Their eastern temperament responds readily
to the crude, strong, and wild appeal which its cadences make to them, and
the jingling rhyme in which the sentences of a discourse generally end adds
to the charm of the whole. The Koran, even if viewed from the point of view
of style alone, was to them from the first nothing less than a miracle, as
great a miracle as ever was wrought.
But to return to our own view of the case. Our difficulty in appreciating the
style of the Koran even moderately is, of course, increased if, instead of
the original, we have a translation before us. But one is happy to be able to
say that Rodwell's rendering is one of the best that have as yet been
produced. It seems to a great extent to carry with it the atmosphere in which
Muhammed lived, and its sentences are imbued with the flavour of the East.
The quasi-verse form, with its unfettered and irregular rhythmic flow of the
lines, which has in suitable cases been adopted, helps to bring out much of
the wild charm of the Arabic. Not the least among its recommendations is,
perhaps, that it is scholarly without being pedantic that is to say, that it
aims at correctness without sacrificing the right effect of the whole to
over-insistence on small details.
Another important merit of Rodwell's edition is its chronological arrangement
of the Suras or chapters. As he tells us himself in his preface, it is now in
a number of cases impossible to ascertain the exact occasion on which a
discourse, or part of a discourse, was delivered, so that the system could
not be carried through with entire consistency. But the sequence adopted is
in the main based on the best available historical and literary evidence; and
in following the order of the chapters as here printed, the reader will be
able to trace the development of the prophet's mind as he gradually advanced
from the early flush of inspiration to the less spiritual and more equivocal
r\oc\le of warrior, politician, and founder of an empire.
1 Mahommed and the Rise of Islam, in “Heroes of Nations” series.
ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS. From the original Arabic by G. Sale, 1734, 1764, 1795,
1801; many later editions, which include a memoir of the translator by R. A.
Davenport, and notes from Savary's version of the Koran; an edition issued by
E. M. Wherry, with additional notes and commentary (Tr\du\ubner's Oriental
Series), 1882, etc.; Sale's translation has also been edited in the Chandos
Classics, and among Lubbock's Hundred Books (No. 22). The Holy Qur\da\an,
translated by Dr. Mohammad Abdul Hakim Khan, with short notes, 1905;
Translation by J. M. Rodwell, with notes and index (the Suras arranged in
chronological order), 1861, 2nd ed., 1876; by E. H. Palmer (Sacred Books of
the East, vols. vi., ix.).
SELECTIONS: Chiefly from Sale's edition, by E. W. Lane, 1843; revised and
enlarged with introduction by S. Lane-Poole. (Tr\du\ubner's Oriental Series),
1879; The Speeches and Table-Talk of the Prophet Mohammad, etc., chosen and
translated, with introduction and notes by S. Lane-Poole, 1882 (Golden
Treasury Series); Selections with introduction and explanatory notes (from
Sale and other writers), by J. Murdock (Sacred Books of the East), 2nd ed.,
1902; The Religion of the Koran, selections with an introduction by A. N.
Wollaston (The Wisdom of the East), 1904.
See also: Sir W. Muir: The Koran, its Composition and Teaching, 1878;
H. Hirschfeld: New Researches into the Composition and Exegesis of the Qoran,
1902; W. St C. Tisdale: Sources of the Qur’ân, 1905; H. U. W. Stanton: The
Teaching of the Qur’án, 1919; A. Mingana: Syriac Influence on the Style of
the Kur’ân, 1927.
SIR WILLIAM MARTIN, K.T., D.C.L.
LATE CHIEF JUSTICE OF NEW ZEALAND,
THIS VOLUME IS DEDICATED,
WITH SINCERE FEELINGS OF ESTEEM FOR HIS PRIVATE WORTH,
AND EMINENT LITERARY ATTAINMENTS,
It is necessary that some brief explanation should be given with reference to
the arrangement of the Suras, or chapters, adopted in this translation of the
Koran. It should be premised that their order as it stands in all Arabic
manuscripts, and in all hitherto printed editions, whether Arabic or
European, is not chronological, neither is there any authentic tradition to
shew that it rests upon the authority of Muhammad himself. The scattered
fragments of the Koran were in the first instance collected by his immediate
successor Abu Bekr, about a year after the Prophet's death, at the suggestion
of Omar, who foresaw that, as the Muslim warriors, whose memories were the
sole depositaries of large portions of the revelations, died off or were
slain, as had been the case with many in the battle of Yemâma, A.H. 12, the
loss of the greater part, or even of the whole, was imminent. Zaid Ibn
Thâbit, a native of Medina, and one of the Ansars, or helpers, who had been
Muhammad's amanuensis, was the person fixed upon to carry out the task, and
we are told that he "gathered together" the fragments of the Koran from every
quarter, "from date leaves and tablets of white stone, and from the breasts
of men."1 The copy thus formed by Zaid probably remained in the possession of
Abu Bekr during the remainder of his brief caliphate, who committed it to the
custody of Haphsa, one of Muhammad's widows, and this text continued during
the ten years of Omar's caliphate to be the standard. In the copies made from
it, various readings naturally and necessarily sprung up; and these, under
the caliphate of Othman, led to such serious disputes between the faithful,
that it became necessary to interpose, and in accordance with the warning of
Hodzeifa, "to stop the people, before they should differ regarding their
scriptures, as did the Jews and Christians."2 In accordance with this advice,
Othman determined to establish a text which should be the sole standard, and
entrusted the redaction to the Zaid already mentioned, with whom he
associated as colleagues, three, according to others, twelve3 of the
Koreisch, in order to secure the purity of that Meccan idiom in which
Muhammad had spoken, should any occasions arise in which the collators might
have to decide upon various readings. Copies of the text formed were thus
forwarded to several of the chief military stations in the new empire, and
all previously existing copies were committed to the flames.
Zaid and his coadjutors, however, do not appear to have arranged the
materials which came into their hands upon any system more definite than that
of placing the longest and best known Suras first, immediately after the
Fatthah, or opening chapter (the eighth in this edition); although even this
rule, artless and unscientific as it is, has not been adhered to with
strictness. Anything approaching to a chronological arrangement was entirely
lost sight of. Late Medina Suras are often placed before early Meccan Suras;
the short Suras at the end of the Koran are its earliest portions; while, as
will be seen from the notes, verses of Meccan origin are to be found embedded
in Medina Suras, and verses promulged at Medina scattered up and down in the
Meccan Suras. It would seem as if Zaid had to a great extent put his
materials together just as they came to hand, and often with entire disregard
to continuity of subject and uniformity of style. The text, therefore, as
hitherto arranged, necessarily assumes the form of a most unreadable and
incongruous patchwork; "une assemblage," says M. Kasimirski in his Preface,
"informe et incohérent de préceptes moraux, religieux, civils et politiques,
mêlés d'exhortations, de promesses, et de menaces"–and conveys no idea
whatever of the development and growth of any plan in the mind of the founder
of Islam, or of the circumstances by which he was surrounded and influenced.
It is true that the manner in which Zaid contented himself with simply
bringing together his materials and transcribing them, without any attempt to
mould them into shape or sequence, and without any effort to supply
connecting links between adjacent verses, to fill up obvious chasms, or to
suppress details of a nature discreditable to the founder of Islam, proves
his scrupulous honesty as a compiler, as well as his reverence for the sacred
text, and to a certain extent guarantees the genuineness and authenticity of
the entire volume. But it is deeply to be regretted that he did not combine
some measure of historical criticism with that simplicity and honesty of
purpose which forbade him, as it certainly did, in any way to tamper with the
sacred text, to suppress contradictory, and exclude or soften down
The arrangement of the Suras in this translation is based partly upon the
traditions of the Muhammadans themselves, with reference especially to the
ancient chronological list printed by Weil in his Mohammed der Prophet, as
well as upon a careful consideration of the subject matter of each separate
Sura and its probable connection with the sequence of events in the life of
Muhammad. Great attention has been paid to this subject by Dr. Weil in the
work just mentioned; by Mr. Muir in his Life of Mahomet, who also publishes a
chronological list of Suras, 21 however of which he admits have "not yet been
carefully fixed;" and especially by Nöldeke, in his Geschichte des Qôrans, a
work to which public honours were awarded in 1859 by the Paris Academy of
Inscriptions. From the arrangement of this author I see no reason to depart
in regard to the later Suras. It is based upon a searching criticism and
minute analysis of the component verses of each, and may be safely taken as a
standard, which ought not to be departed from without weighty reasons. I
have, however, placed the earlier and more fragmentary Suras, after the two
first, in an order which has reference rather to their subject matter than to
points of historical allusion, which in these Suras are very few; whilst on
the other hand, they are mainly couched in the language of self-communion, of
aspirations after truth, and of mental struggle, are vivid pictures of Heaven
and Hell, or descriptions of natural objects, and refer also largely to the
opposition met with by Muhammad from his townsmen of Mecca at the outset of
his public career. This remark applies to what Nöldeke terms "the Suras of
the First Period."
The contrast between the earlier, middle, and later Suras is very striking
and interesting, and will be at once apparent from the arrangement here
adopted. In the Suras as far as the 54th, p. 76, we cannot but notice the
entire predominance of the poetical element, a deep appreciation (as in Sura
xci. p. 38) of the beauty of natural objects, brief fragmentary and
impassioned utterances, denunciations of woe and punishment, expressed for
the most part in lines of extreme brevity. With a change, however, in the
position of Muhammad when he openly assumes the office of "public warner,"
the Suras begin to assume a more prosaic and didactic tone, though the
poetical ornament of rhyme is preserved throughout. We gradually lose the
Poet in the missionary aiming to convert, the warm asserter of dogmatic
truths; the descriptions of natural objects, of the judgment, of Heaven and
Hell, make way for gradually increasing historical statements, first from
Jewish, and subsequently from Christian histories; while, in the 29 Suras
revealed at Medina, we no longer listen to vague words, often as it would
seem without positive aim, but to the earnest disputant with the enemies of
his faith, the Apostle pleading the cause of what he believes to be the Truth
of God. He who at Mecca is the admonisher and persuader, at Medina is the
legislator and the warrior, who dictates obedience, and uses other weapons
than the pen of the Poet and the Scribe. When business pressed, as at Medina,
Poetry makes way for Prose, and although touches of the Poetical element
occasionally break forth, and he has to defend himself up to a very late
period against the charge of being merely a Poet, yet this is rarely the case
in the Medina Suras; and we are startled by finding obedience to God and the
Apostle, God's gifts and the Apostle's, God's pleasure and the Apostle's,
spoken of in the same breath, and epithets and attributes elsewhere applied
to Allah openly applied to himself as in Sura ix., 118, 129.
The Suras, viewed as a whole, strike me as being the work of one who began
his career as a thoughtful enquirer after truth, and an earnest asserter of
it in such rhetorical and poetical forms as he deemed most likely to win and
attract his countrymen, and who gradually proceeded from the dogmatic teacher
to the politic founder of a system for which laws and regulations had to be
provided as occasions arose. And of all the Suras it must be remarked that
they were intended not for readers but for hearers–that they were all
promulgated by public recital–and that much was left, as the imperfect
sentences shew, to the manner and suggestive action of the reciter. It would
be impossible, and indeed it is unnecessary, to attempt a detailed life of
Muhammad within the narrow limits of a Preface. The main events thereof with
which the Suras of the Koran stand in connection, are–The visions of Gabriel,
seen, or said to have been seen, at the outset of his career in his 40th
year, during one of his seasons of annual monthly retirement, for devotion
and meditation to Mount Hirâ, near Mecca,–the period of mental depression and
re-assurance previous to the assumption of the office of public teacher–the
Fatrah or pause (see n. p. 20) during which he probably waited for a
repetition of the angelic vision–his labours in comparative privacy for three
years, issuing in about 40 converts, of whom his wife Chadijah was the first,
and Abu Bekr the most important: (for it is to him and to Abu Jahl the Sura
xcii. p. 32, refers)–struggles with Meccan unbelief and idolatry followed by
a period during which probably he had the second vision, Sura liii. p. 69,
and was listened to and respected as a person "possessed" (Sura lxix. 42, p.
60, lii. 29, p. 64)–the first emigration to Abyssinia in A.D. 616, in
consequence of the Meccan persecutions brought on by his now open attacks
upon idolatry (Taghout)–increasing reference to Jewish and Christian
histories, shewing that much time had been devoted to their study the
conversion of Omar in 617–the journey to the Thaquifites at Taief in A.D.
620–the intercourse with pilgrims from Medina, who believed in Islam, and
spread the knowledge thereof in their native town, in the same year–the
vision of the midnight journey to Jerusalem and the Heavens–the meetings by
night at Acaba, a mountain near Mecca, in the 11th year of his mission, and
the pledges of fealty there given to him–the command given to the believers
to emigrate to Yathrib, henceforth Medinat-en-nabi (the city of the Prophet)
or El-Medina (the city), in April of A.D. 622–the escape of Muhammad and Abu
Bekr from Mecca to the cave of Thaur–the FLIGHT to Medina in June 20, A.D.
622–treaties made with Christian tribes–increasing, but still very imperfect
acquaintance with Christian doctrines–the Battle of Bedr in Hej. 2, and of
Ohod–the coalition formed against Muhammad by the Jews and idolatrous
Arabians, issuing in the siege of Medina, Hej. 5 (A.D. 627)–the convention,
with reference to the liberty of making the pilgrimage, of Hudaibiya, Hej. 6–
the embassy to Chosroes King of Persia in the same year, to the Governor of
Egypt and to the King of Abyssinia, desiring them to embrace Islam–the
conquest of several Jewish tribes, the most important of which was that of
Chaibar in Hej. 7, a year marked by the embassy sent to Heraclius, then in
Syria, on his return from the Persian campaign, and by a solemn and peaceful
pilgrimage to Mecca–the triumphant entry into Mecca in Hej. 8 (A.D. 630), and
the demolition of the idols of the Caaba–the submission of the Christians of
Nedjran, of Aila on the Red Sea, and of Taief, etc., in Hej. 9, called "the
year of embassies or deputations," from the numerous deputations which
flocked to Mecca proffering submission–and lastly in Hej. 10, the submission
of Hadramont, Yemen, the greater part of the southern and eastern provinces
of Arabia–and the final solemn pilgrimage to Mecca.
While, however, there is no great difficulty in ascertaining the Suras which
stand in connection with the more salient features of Muhammad's life, it is
a much more arduous, and often impracticable task, to point out the precise
events to which individual verses refer, and out of which they sprung. It is
quite possible that Muhammad himself, in a later period of his career,
designedly mixed up later with earlier revelations in the same Suras not for
the sake of producing that mysterious style which seems so pleasing to the
mind of those who value truth least when it is most clear and obvious but for
the purpose of softening down some of the earlier statements which represent
the last hour and awful judgment as imminent; and thus leading his followers
to continue still in the attitude of expectation, and to see in his later
successes the truth of his earlier predictions. If after-thoughts of this
kind are to be traced, and they will often strike the attentive reader, it
then follows that the perplexed state of the text in individual Suras is to
be considered as due to Muhammad himself, and we are furnished with a series
of constant hints for attaining to chronological accuracy. And it may be
remarked in passing, that a belief that the end of all things was at hand,
may have tended to promote the earlier successes of Islam at Mecca, as it
unquestionably was an argument with the Apostles, to flee from "the wrath to
come." It must be borne in mind that the allusions to contemporary minor
events, and to the local efforts made by the new religion to gain the
ascendant are very few, and often couched in terms so vague and general, that
we are forced to interpret the Koran solely by the Koran itself. And for
this, the frequent repetitions of the same histories and the same sentiments,
afford much facility: and the peculiar manner in which the details of each
history are increased by fresh traits at each recurrence, enables us to trace
their growth in the author's mind, and to ascertain the manner in which a
part of the Koran was composed. The absence of the historical element from
the Koran as regards the details of Muhammad's daily life, may be judged of
by the fact, that only two of his contemporaries are mentioned in the entire
volume, and that Muhammad's name occurs but five times, although he is all
the way through addressed by the Angel Gabriel as the recipient of the divine
revelations, with the word SAY. Perhaps such passages as Sura ii. 15, p. 339,
and v. 246, p. 365, and the constant mention of guidance, direction,
wandering, may have been suggested by reminiscences of his mercantile
journeys in his earlier years.
It may be considered quite certain that it was not customary to reduce to
writing any traditions concerning Muhammad himself for at least the greater
part of a century. They rested entirely on the memory of those who have
handed them down, and must necessarily have been coloured by their prejudices
and convictions, to say nothing of the tendency to the formation of myths and
to actual fabrication, which early shews itself, especially in
interpretations of the Koran, to subserve the purposes of the contending
factions of the Ommeyads and Abbâsides. It was under the 5th Caliph, Al-
Mâmûn, that three writers (mentioned below) on whom we mainly depend for all
really reliable information, flourished: and even their writings are
necessarily coloured by the theological tendencies of their master and
patron, who was a decided partizan of the divine right of Ali and of his
descendants. The incidents mentioned in the Koran itself, for the
interpretation of which early tradition is available, are comparatively few,
and there are many passages with which it is totally at variance; as, for
instance, that Muhammad worked miracles, which the Koran expressly disclaims.
Traditions can never be considered as at all reliable, unless they are
traceable to some common origin, have descended to us by independent
witnesses, and correspond with the statements of the Koran itself–always of
course deducting such texts as (which is not unfrequently the case) have
themselves given rise to the tradition. It soon becomes obvious to the reader
of Muslim traditions and commentators that both miracles and historical
events have been invented for the sake of expounding a dark and perplexing
text; and that even the earlier traditions are largely tinged with the
The first biographer of Muhammad of whom we have any information was Zohri,
who died A.H. 124, aged 72; but his works, though abundantly quoted by later
writers, are no longer extant. Much of his information was derived from Orwa,
who died A.H. 94, and was a near relative of Ayesha, the prophet's favourite
Ibn Ishaq, who died in A.H. 151, and who had been a hearer of Zohri, composed
a Biography of Muhammad for the use of the Caliph Al Mánsûr. On this work,
considerable remains of which have come down to us, Ibn Hisham, who died A.H.
213, based his Life of Muhammad.
Waquidi of Medina, who died A.H. 207, composed a biographical work, which has
reached us in an abbreviated form through his secretary (Katib). It is
composed entirely of traditions.
Tabari, "the Livy of the Arabians" (Gibbon, 51, n. 1), who died at Baghdad
A.H. 310, composed annals of Muhammad's life and of the progress of Islam.
These ancient writers are the principal sources whence anything like
authentic information as to the life of Muhammad has been derived. And it may
be safely concluded that after the diligent investigations carried on by the
professed collectors of traditions in the second century after the Hejira,
that little or nothing remains to be added to our stores of information
relative to the details of Muhammad's life, or to facts which may further
illustrate the text of the Koran. But however this may be, no records which
are posterior in date to these authorities can be considered as at all
deserving of dependance. "To consider," says Dr. Sprenger, "late historians
like Abulfeda as authorities, and to suppose that an account gains in
certainty because it is mentioned by several of them, is highly uncritical."
Life of Mohammad, p. 73.
The sources whence Muhammad derived the materials of his Koran are, over and
above the more poetical parts, which are his own creation, the legends of his
time and country, Jewish traditions based upon the Talmud, or perverted to
suit his own purposes, and the floating Christian traditions of Arabia and of
S. Syria. At a later period of his career no one would venture to doubt the
divine origin of the entire book. But at its commencement the case was
different. The people of Mecca spoke openly and tauntingly of it as the work
of a poet, as a collection of antiquated or fabulous legends, or as palpable
sorcery.4 They accused him of having confederates, and even specified
foreigners who had been his coadjutors. Such were Salman the Persian, to whom
he may have owed the descriptions of Heaven and Hell, which are analogous to
those of the Zendavesta; and the Christian monk Sergius, or as the
Muhammadans term him, Boheira. From the latter, and perhaps from other
Christians, especially slaves naturalised at Mecca, Muhammad obtained access
to the teaching of the Apocryphal Gospels, and to many popular traditions of
which those Gospels are the concrete expression. His wife Chadijah, as well
as her cousin Waraka, a reputed convert to Christianity, and Muhammad's
intimate friend, are said to have been well acquainted with the doctrines and
sacred books both of Jews and Christians. And not only were several Arab
tribes in the neighbourhood of Mecca converts to the Christian faith, but on
two occasions Muhammad had travelled with his uncle, Abu Talib, as far as
Bostra, where he must have had opportunities of learning the general outlines
of Oriental Christian doctrine, and perhaps of witnessing the ceremonial of
their worship. And it appears tolerably certain that previous to and at the
period of his entering into public life, there was a large number of
enquirers at Mecca, who like Zaid, Omayah of Taief, Waraka, etc., were
dissatisfied equally with the religion of their fathers, the Judaism and the
Christianity which they saw around them, and were anxiously enquiring for
some better way. The names and details of the lives of twelve of the
"companions" of Muhammad who lived in Mecca, Medina, and Taief, are recorded,
who previous to his assumption of the Prophetic office, called themselves
Hanyfs, i.e., converts, puritans, and were believers in one God, and regarded
Abraham as the founder of their religion. Muhammad publicly acknowledged that
he was a Hanyf–and this sect of the Hanyfites (who are in no way to be
confounded with the later sect of the same name) were among his Meccan
precursors. See n. pp. 209, 387. Their history is to be found in the Fihrist–
MS. Paris, anc. fonds, nr. 874 (and in other treatises)–which Dr. Sprenger
believes to have been in the library of the Caliph El-Mâmûn. In this
treatise, the Hanyfs are termed Sabeites, and said to have received the
Volumes (Sohof) or Books of Abraham, mentioned in Sura lxxxvii. 19, p. 40,
41, which most commentators affirm to have been borrowed from them, as is
also the case with the latter part of Sura liii. 37, ad f. p. 71; so that
from these "Books" Muhammad derived the legends of Ad and Themoud, whose
downfall, recent as it was (see note p. 300), he throws back to a period
previous to that of Moses, who is made to ask (Sura xiv. 9, p. 226) "whether
their history had reached his hearers." Muhammad is said to have discovered
these "Books" to be a recent forgery, and that this is the reason why no
mention of them occurs after the fourth year of his Prophetic function, A.D.
616. Hence too, possibly, the title Hanyf was so soon dropped and exchanged
for that of Muslim, one who surrenders or resigns himself to God. The Waraka
above mentioned, and cousin of Chadijah, is said to have believed on Muhammad
as long as he continued true to the principles of the Hanyfs, but to have
quitted him in disgust at his subsequent proceedings, and to have died an
It has been supposed that Muhammad derived many of his notions concerning
Christianity from Gnosticism, and that it is to the numerous gnostic sects
the Koran alludes when it reproaches the Christians with having "split up
their religion into parties." But for Muhammad thus to have confounded
Gnosticism with Christianity itself, its prevalence in Arabia must have been
far more universal than we have any reason to believe it really was. In fact,
we have no historical authority for supposing that the doctrines of these
heretics were taught or professed in Arabia at all. It is certain, on the
other hand, that the Basilidans, Valentinians, and other gnostic sects had
either died out, or been reabsorbed into the orthodox Church, towards the
middle of the fifth century, and had disappeared from Egypt before the sixth.
It is nevertheless possible that the gnostic doctrine concerning the
Crucifixion was adopted by Muhammad as likely to reconcile the Jews to Islam,
as a religion embracing both Judaism and Christianity, if they might believe
that Jesus had not been put to death, and thus find the stumbling-block of
the atonement removed out of their path. The Jews would in this case have
simply been called upon to believe in Jesus as being what the Koran
represents him, a holy teacher, who, like the patriarch Enoch or the prophet
Elijah, had been miraculously taken from the earth. But, in all other
respects, the sober and matter-of-fact statements of the Koran relative to
the family and history of Jesus, are altogether opposed to the wild and
fantastic doctrines of Gnostic emanations, and especially to the manner in
which they supposed Jesus, at his Baptism, to have been brought into union
with a higher nature. It is quite clear that Muhammad borrowed in several
points from the doctrines of the Ebionites, Essenes, and Sabeites. Epiphanius
(H‘r. x.) describes the notions of the Ebionites of Nabath‘a, Moabitis, and
Basanitis with regard to Adam and Jesus, almost in the very words of Sura
iii. 52. He tells us that they observed circumcision, were opposed to
celibacy, forbad turning to the sunrise, but enjoined Jerusalem as their
Kebla (as did Muhammad during twelve years), that they prescribed (as did the
Sabeites), washings, very similar to those enjoined in the Koran, and allowed
oaths (by certain natural objects, as clouds, signs of the Zodiac, oil, the
winds, etc.), which we find adopted in the Koran. These points of contact
with Islam, knowing as we do Muhammad's eclecticism, can hardly be
We have no evidence that Muhammad had access to the Christian Scriptures,
though it is just possible that fragments of the Old or New Testament may
have reached him through Chadijah or Waraka, or other Meccan Christians,
possessing MSS. of the sacred volume. There is but one direct quotation (Sura
xxi. 105) in the whole Koran from the Scriptures; and though there are a few
passages, as where alms are said to be given to be seen of men, and as, none
forgiveth sins but God only, which might seem to be identical with texts of
the New Testament, yet this similarity is probably merely accidental. It is,
however, curious to compare such passages as Deut. xxvi. 14, 17; 1 Peter v.
2, with Sura xxiv. 50, p. 448, and x. 73, p. 281 John vii. 15, with the
"illiterate" Prophet–Matt. xxiv. 36, and John xii. 27, with the use of the
word hour as meaning any judgment or crisis, and The last judgment–the voice
of the Son of God which the dead are to hear, with the exterminating or
awakening cry of Gabriel, etc. The passages of this kind, with which the
Koran abounds, result from Muhammad's general acquaintance with Scriptural
phraseology, partly through the popular legends, partly from personal
intercourse with Jews and Christians. And we may be quite certain that
whatever materials Muhammad may have derived from our Scriptures, directly or
indirectly, were carefully recast. He did not even use its words without due
consideration. For instance, except in the phrase "the Lord of the worlds,"
he seems carefully to have avoided the expression the Lord, probably because
it was applied by the Christians to Christ, or to God the Father.
It should also be borne in mind that we have no traces of the existence of
Arabic versions of the Old or New Testament previous to the time of Muhammad.
The passage of St. Jerome–"Hæc autem translatio nullum de veteribus sequitur
interpretem; sed ex ipso Hebraico, Arabicoque sermone, et interdum Syro, nunc
verba, nunc sensum, nunc simul utrumque resonabit," (Prol. Gal.) obviously
does not refer to versions, but to idiom. The earliest Ar. version of the Old
Testament, of which we have any knowledge, is that of R. Saadias Gaon, A.D.
900; and the oldest Ar. version of the New Testament, is that published by
Erpenius in 1616, and transcribed in the Thebais, in the year 1171, by a
Coptic Bishop, from a copy made by a person whose name is known, but whose
date is uncertain. Michaelis thinks that the Arabic versions of the New
Testament were made between the Saracen conquests in the seventh century, and
the Crusades in the eleventh century–an opinion in which he follows, or
coincides with, Walton (Prol. in Polygl. § xiv.) who remarks–"Plane constat
versionem Arabicam apud eas (ecclesias orientales) factam esse postquam
lingua Arabica per victorias et religionem Muhammedanicam per Orientem
propagata fuerat, et in multis locis facta esset vernacula." If, indeed, in
these comparatively late versions, the general phraseology, especially in the
histories common to the Scriptures and to the Koran, bore any similarity to
each other, and if the orthography of the proper names had been the same in
each, it might have been fair to suppose that such versions had been made,
more or less, upon the basis of others, which, though now lost, existed in
the ages prior to Muhammad, and influenced, if they did not directly form,
his sources of information. But5 this does not appear to be the case. The
phraseology of our existing versions is not that of the Koran–and these
versions appear to have been made from the Septuagint, the Vulgate, Syriac,
Coptic, and Greek; the four Gospels, says Tischendorf6 originem mixtam habere
From the Arab Jews, Muhammad would be enabled to derive an abundant, though
most distorted, knowledge of the Scripture histories. The secrecy in which he
received his instructions from them, and from his Christian informants,
enabled him boldly to declare to the ignorant pagan Meccans that God had
revealed those Biblical histories to him. But there can be no doubt, from the
constant identity between the Talmudic perversions of Scripture histories and
Rabbinic moral precepts, that the Rabbins of the Hejaz communicated their
legends to Muhammad. And it should be remembered that the Talmud was
completed a century previous to the era of Muhammad,7 and cannot fail to have
extensively influenced the religious creed of all the Jews of the Arabian
peninsula. In one passage,8 Muhammad speaks of an individual Jew–perhaps some
one of note among his professed followers, as a witness to his mission; and
there can be no doubt that his relations with the Jews were, at one time,
those of friendship and intimacy, when we find him speak of their recognising
him as they do their own children, and hear him blaming their most colloquial
expressions.9 It is impossible, however, for us at this distance of time to
penetrate the mystery in which this subject is involved. Yet certain it is,
that, although their testimony against Muhammad was speedily silenced, the
Koreisch knew enough of his private history to disbelieve and to disprove his
pretensions of being the recipient of a divine revelation, and that they
accused him of writing from the dictation of teachers morning and evening.10
And it is equally certain, that all the information received by Muhammad was
embellished and recast in his own mind and with his own words. There is a
unity of thought, a directness and simplicity of purpose, a peculiar and
laboured style, a uniformity of diction, coupled with a certain deficiency of
imaginative power, which proves the ayats (signs or verses) of the Koran at
least to be the product of a single pen. The longer narratives were,
probably, elaborated in his leisure hours, while the shorter verses, each
claiming to be a sign or miracle, were promulgated as occasion required them.
And, whatever Muhammad may himself profess in the Koran11 as to his
ignorance, even of reading and writing, and however strongly modern
Muhammadans may insist upon the same point an assertion by the way
contradicted by many good authors12–there can be no doubt that to assimilate
and work up his materials, to fashion them into elaborate Suras, to fit them
for public recital, must have been a work requiring much time, study, and
meditation, and presumes a far greater degree of general culture than any
orthodox Muslim will be disposed to admit.
In close connection with the above remarks, stands the question of Muhammad's
sincerity and honesty of purpose in coming forward as a messenger from God.
For if he was indeed the illiterate person the Muslims represent him to have
been, then it will be hard to escape their inference that the Koran is, as
they assert it to be, a standing miracle. But if, on the other hand, it was a
Book carefully concocted from various sources, and with much extraneous aid,
and published as a divine oracle, then it would seem that the author is at
once open to the charge of the grossest imposture, and even of impious
blasphemy. The evidence rather shews, that in all he did and wrote, Muhammad
was actuated by a sincere desire to deliver his countrymen from the grossness
of its debasing idolatries–that he was urged on by an intense desire to
proclaim that great truth of the Unity of the Godhead which had taken full
possession of his own soul–that the end to be attained justified to his mind
the means he adopted in the production of his Suras–that he worked himself up
into a belief that he had received a divine call–and that he was carried on
by the force of circumstances, and by gradually increasing successes, to
believe himself the accredited messenger of Heaven. The earnestness of those
convictions which at Mecca sustained him under persecution, and which perhaps
led him, at any price as it were, and by any means, not even excluding deceit
and falsehood, to endeavour to rescue his countrymen from idolatry,–naturally
stiffened at Medina into tyranny and unscrupulous violence. At the same time,
he was probably, more or less, throughout his whole career, the victim of a
certain amount of self-deception. A cataleptic13 subject from his early
youth, born–according to the traditions–of a highly nervous and excitable
mother, he would be peculiarly liable to morbid and fantastic hallucinations,
and alternations of excitement and depression, which would win for him, in
the eyes of his ignorant countrymen, the credit of being inspired. It would
be easy for him to persuade himself that he was "the seal of the Prophets,"
the proclaimer of a doctrine of the Divine Unity, held and taught by the
Patriarchs, especially by Abraham–a doctrine that should present to mankind
Judaism divested of its Mosaic ceremonial, and Christianity divested of the
Atonement and the Trinity14–doctrine, as he might have believed, fitted and
destined to absorb Judaism, Christianity, and Idolatry; and this persuasion,
once admitted into his mind as a conviction, retained possession of it, and
carried him on, though often in the use of means, towards the end of his
career, far different from those with which he commenced it, to a victorious
consummation. It is true that the state of Arabia previous to the time of
Muhammad was one of preparedness for a new religion that the scattered
elements were there, and wanted only the mind of a master to harmonise and
enforce them and that Islam was, so to speak, a necessity of the time.15
Still Muhammad's career is a wonderful instance of the force and life that
resides in him who possesses an intense Faith in God and in the unseen world;
and whatever deductions may be made–and they are many and serious–from the
noble and truthful in his character, he will always be regarded as one of
those who have had that influence over the faith, morals, and whole earthly
life of their fellow-men, which none but a really great man ever did, or can,
exercise; and as one of those, whose efforts to propagate some great verity
will prosper, in spite of manifold personal errors and defects, both of
principle and character.
The more insight we obtain, from undoubted historical sources, into the
actual character of Muhammad, the less reason do we find to justify the
strong vituperative language poured out upon his head by Maracci, Prideaux,
and others, in recent days, one of whom has found, in the Byzantine
"Maometis," the number of the Beast (Rev. xii)! It is nearer to the truth to
say that he was a great though imperfect character, an earnest though
mistaken teacher, and that many of his mistakes and imperfections were the
result of circumstances, of temperament, and constitution; and that there
must be elements both of truth and goodness in the system of which he was the
main author, to account for the world-wide phenomenon, that whatever may be
the intellectual inferiority (if such is, indeed, the fact) of the Muslim
races, the influence of his teaching, aided, it is true, by the vast impulse
given to it by the victorious arms of his followers, has now lasted for
nearly thirteen centuries, and embraces more than one hundred millions of our
race–more than one-tenth part of the inhabitants of the globe.
It must be acknowledged, too, that the Koran deserves the highest praise for
its conceptions of the Divine nature, in reference to the attributes of
Power, Knowledge, and universal Providence and Unity–that its belief and
trust in the One God of Heaven and Earth is deep and fervent–and that, though
it contains fantastic visions and legends, teaches a childish ceremonial, and
justifies bloodshedding, persecution, slavery, and polygamy, yet that at the
same time it embodies much of a noble and deep moral earnestness, and
sententious oracular wisdom, and has proved that there are elements in it on
which mighty nations, and conquering though not, perhaps, durable–empires can
be built up. It is due to the Koran, that the occupants in the sixth century
of an arid peninsula, whose poverty was only equalled by their ignorance,
become not only the fervent and sincere votaries of a new creed, but, like
Amru and many more, its warlike propagators. Impelled possibly by drought and
famine, actuated partly by desire of conquest, partly by religious
convictions, they had conquered Persia in the seventh century, the northern
coasts of Africa, and a large portion of Spain in the eighth, the Punjaub and
nearly the whole of India in the ninth. The simple shepherds and wandering
Bedouins of Arabia, are transformed, as if by a magician's wand, into the
founders of empires, the builders of cities, the collectors of more libraries
than they at first destroyed, while cities like Fostât, Baghdad, Cordova, and
Delhi, attest the power at which Christian Europe trembled. And thus, while
the Koran, which underlays this vast energy and contains the principles which
are its springs of action, reflects to a great extent the mixed character of
its author, its merits as a code of laws, and as a system of religious
teaching, must always be estimated by the changes which it introduced into
the customs and beliefs of those who willingly or by compulsion embraced it.
In the suppression of their idolatries, in the substitution of the worship of
Allah for that of the powers of nature and genii with Him, in the abolition
of child murder, in the extinction of manifold superstitious usages, in the
reduction of the number of wives to a fixed standard, it was to the Arabians
an unquestionable blessing, and an accession, though not in the Christian
sense a Revelation, of Truth; and while every Christian must deplore the
overthrow of so many flourishing Eastern churches by the arms of the
victorious Muslims, it must not be forgotten that Europe, in the middle ages,
owed much of her knowledge of dialectic philosophy, of medicine, and
architecture, to Arabian writers, and that Muslims formed the connecting link
between the West and the East for the importation of numerous articles of
luxury and use. That an immense mass of fable and silly legend has been built
up upon the basis of the Koran is beyond a doubt, but for this Muhammad is
not answerable, any more than he is for the wild and bloodthirsty excesses of
his followers in after ages. I agree with Sale in thinking that, "how
criminal soever Muhammad may have been in imposing a false religion on
mankind, the praises due to his real virtues ought not to be denied him"
(Preface), and venture to think that no one can rise from the perusal of his
Koran without argeeing with that motto from St. Augustin, which Sale has
prefixed to his title page, "Nulla falsa doctrina est, quæ non aliquid veri
permisceat." Qu‘st. Evang. ii. 40.
The Arabic text from which this translation has been made is that of Fluegel.
Leips. 1841. The translations of Sale, Ullmann, Wahl, Hammer von Purgstall in
the Fundgruben des Orients, and M. Kasimirski, have been collated throughout;
and above all, the great work of Father Maracci, to whose accuracy and
research search Sale's work mainly owes its merits. Sale has, however,
followed Maracci too closely, especially by introducing his paraphrastic
comments into the body of the text, as well as by his constant use of
Latinised instead of Saxon words. But to Sale's "Preliminary Discourse" the
reader is referred, as to a storehouse of valuable information; as well as to
the works of Geiger, Gerock, and Freytag, and to the lives of Muhammad by Dr.
Weil, Mr. Muir, and that of Dr. Sprenger now issuing from the press, in
German. The more brief and poetical verses of the earlier Suras are
translated with a freedom from which I have altogether abstained in the
historical and prosaic portions; but I have endeavoured nowhere to use a
greater amount of paraphrase than is necessary to convey the sense of the
original. "Vel verbum e verbo," says S. Jerome (Præf. in Jobum) of versions,
"vel sensum e sensu, vel ex utroque commixtum, et medie temperatum genus
translationis." The proper names are usually given as in our Scriptures: the
English reader would not easily recognise Noah as Nûh, Lot as Lût, Moses as
Musa, Abraham as Ibrahym, Pharaoh as Firaun, Aaron as Harun, Jesus as Isa,
John as Yahia, etc.; and it has been thought best to give different
renderings of the same constantly recurring words and phrases, in order more
fully to convey their meaning. For instance, the Arabic words which mean
Companions of the fire, are also rendered inmates of, etc., given up to,
etc.; the People of the Book, i.e. Jews, Christians and Sabeites, is
sometimes retained, sometimes paraphrased. This remark applies to such words
as tanzyl, lit. downsending or Revelation; zikr, the remembrance or constant
repetition or mention of God's name as an act of devotion; saha, the Hour of
present or final judgment; and various epithets of Allah.
I have nowhere attempted to represent the rhymes of the original. The
"Proben" of H. v. Purgstall, in the Fundgruben des Orients, excellent as they
are in many respects, shew that this can only be done with a sacrifice of
literal translation. I subjoin as a specimen Lieut. Burton's version of the
Fatthah, or opening chapter of previous editions. See Sura [viii.] p. 28.
1 In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate!
2 Praise be to Allah, who the three worlds made.
3 The Merciful, the Compassionate,
4 The King of the day of Fate.
5 Thee alone do we worship, and of thee alone do we ask aid.
6 Guide us to the path that is straight–
7 The path of those to whom thy love is great,
Not those on whom is hate,
Nor they that deviate. Amen.
"I have endeavoured," he adds, "in this translation to imitate the imperfect
rhyme of the original Arabic. Such an attempt, however, is full of
difficulties. The Arabic is a language in which, like Italian, it is almost
impossible not to rhyme." Pilgr. ii. 78.
1 Mishcât, vol. i. p. 524. E. Trans. B. viii. 3, 3.
2 Mishcât, as above. Muir, i. p. xiii. Freyt. Einl., p. 384. Memoires de
l’Acad. T. 50, p. 426. Nöld. p. 205.
3 Kitâb al Waquidi, p. 278
4 See Suras xxxvi. xxv. xvii.
5 See Walton’s Prol. ad Polygl. Lond. § xiv. 2.
6 Prol. in N.T. p. lxxviii.
7 The date of the Bab. Gemara is A.D. 530; of the Jerusalem Gamara, A.D.
430; of the Mischina A.D. 220; See Gfrörer’s Jahrhundert des Heils, pp. 11-
8 Sura xlvi. 10, p. 314.
9 Sura vi. 20, p. 318. Sura ii. 13 (p. 339), verse 98, etc.
10 Sura xxv. 5, 6, p. 159.
11 Sura. vii. 156, p. 307; xxix. 47, p. 265.
12 See Dr. Sprenger’s “Life,” p. 101.
13 Or, epileptic.
14 A line of argument to be adopted by a Christian missionary in dealing
with a Muhammadan should be, not to attack Islam as a mass of error, but to
shew that it contains fragments of disjointed truth–that it is based upon
Christianity and Judaism partially understood–especially upon the latter,
without any appreciation of its typical character pointing to Christianity as
a final dispensation.
15 Muhammad can scarcely have failed to observe the opportunity offered for
the growth of a new power, by the ruinous strifes of the Persians and Greeks.
Abulfeda (Life of Muhammad, p. 76) expressly says that he had promised his
followers the spoils o Chosroes and Cæsar.
SURA1 XCVI.–THICK BLOOD, OR CLOTS OF BLOOD [I.]
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful2
RECITE3 thou, in the name of thy Lord who created;–
Created man from CLOTS OF BLOOD:–
Recite thou! For thy Lord is the most Beneficent,
Who hath taught the use of the pen;–
Hath taught Man that which he knoweth not.
Nay, verily,4 Man is insolent,
Because he seeth himself possessed of riches.
Verily, to thy Lord is the return of all.
What thinkest thou of him that holdeth back
A servant5 of God when he prayeth?
What thinkest thou?6 Hath he followed the true Guidance, or enjoined Piety?
What thinkest thou? Hath he treated the truth as a lie and turned his back?
What! doth he not know how that God seeth?
Nay, verily, if he desist not, We shall seize him by the forelock,
The lying sinful forelock!
Then let him summon his associates;7
We too will summon the guards of Hell:
Nay! obey him not; but adore, and draw nigh to God.8
1 The word Sura occurs nine times in the Koran, viz. Sur. ix. 65, 87, 125,
128; xxiv. 1; xlvii. 22 (twice); ii. 21; x. 39; but it is not easy to
determine whether it means a whole chapter, or part only of a chapter, or is
used in the sense of "revelation." See Weil's Mohammed der Prophet, pp. 361-
363. It is understood by the Muhammadan commentators to have a primary
reference to the succession of subjects or parts, like the rows of bricks in
a wall. The titles of the Suras are generally taken from some word occurring
in each, which is printed in large type throughout, where practicable.
2 This formula–Bismillahi 'rrahmani 'rrahim–is of Jewish origin. It was in
the first instance taught to the Koreisch by Omayah of Taief, the poet, who
was a contemporary with, but somewhat older than, Muhammad; and who, during
his mercantile journeys into Arabia Petr‘a and Syria, had made himself
acquainted with the sacred books and doctrines of Jews and Christians. (Kitab
al-Aghâni, 16. Delhi.) Muhammad adopted and constantly used it, and it is
prefixed to each Sura except the ninth. The former of the two epithets
implies that the mercy of God is exercised as occasions arise, towards all
his creatures; the latter that the quality of mercy is inherent in God and
permanent, so that there is only a shade of difference between the two words.
Maracci well renders, In Nomine Dei Miseratoris, Misericordis. The rendering
I have adopted is that of Mr. Lane in his extracts from the Koran. See also
Freytag's Lex. ii. p. 133. Perhaps, In the name of Allah, the God of Mercy,
the Merciful, would more fully express the original Arabic. The first five
verses of this Sura are, in the opinion of nearly all commentators, ancient
and modern, the earliest revelations made to Muhammad, in the 40th year of
his life, and the starting point of El-Islam. (See the authorities quoted in
detail in Nöldeke's Geschichte des Qorâns, p. 62, n.)
3 The usual rendering is read. But the word qaraa, which is the root of the
word Koran, analogous to the Rabbinic mikra, rather means to address, recite;
and with regard to its etymology and use in the kindred dialects to call, cry
aloud, proclaim. Compare Isai. lviii. 1; 1 Kings xviii. 37; and Gesen.
Thesaur. on the Hebrew root. I understand this passage to mean, "Preach to
thy fellow men what thou believest to be true of thy Lord who has created man
from the meanest materials, and can in like manner prosper the truth which
thou proclaimest. He has taught man the art of writing (recently introduced
at Mecca) and in this thou wilt find a powerful help for propagating the
knowledge of the divine Unity." The speaker in this, as in all the Suras, is
Gabriel, of whom Muhammad had, as he believed, a vision on the mountain Hirâ,
near Mecca. See note 1 on the next page. The details of the vision are quite
4 This, and the following verses, may have been added at a later period,
though previous to the Flight, and with special reference, if we are to
believe the commentators Beidhawi, etc., to the opposition which Muhammad
experienced at the hands of his opponent, Abu Jahl, who had threatened to set
his foot on the Prophet's neck when prostrate in prayer. But the whole
passage admits of application to mankind in general.
5 That is Muhammad. Nöldeke, however, proposes to render "a slave." And it is
certain that the doctrines of Islam were in the first instance embraced by
slaves, many of whom had been carried away from Christian homes, or born of
Christian parents at Mecca. "Men of this description," says Dr. Sprenger
(Life of Mohammad. Allahabad. p. 159), "no doubt prepared the way for the
Islam by inculcating purer notions respecting God upon their masters and
their brethren. These men saw in Mohammad their liberator; and being
superstitious enough to consider his fits as the consequence of an
inspiration, they were among the first who acknowledged him as a prophet.
Many of them suffered torture for their faith in him, and two of them died as
martyrs. The excitement among the slaves when Mohammad first assumed his
office was so great, that Abd Allah bin Jod'an, who had one hundred of these
sufferers, found it necessary to remove them from Makkah, lest they should
all turn converts." See Sura xvi. 105, 111; ii. 220.
6 Lit. hast thou seen if he be upon the guidance.
7 The principal men of the Koreisch who adhered to Abu Jahl.
8 During a period variously estimated from six months to three years from the
revelation of this Sura, or of its earliest verses, the prophetic inspiration
and the revelation of fresh Suras is said to have been suspended. This
interval is called the Fatrah or intermission; and the Meccan Suras delivered
at its close show that at or during this period Muhammad had gained an
increasing and more intimate acquaintance with the Jewish and Christian
Scriptures. "The accounts, however," says Mr. Muir (vol. ii. 86) "are
throughout confused, if not contradictory; and we can only gather with
certainty that there was a time during which his mind hung in suspense, and
doubted the divine mission." The idea of any supernatural influence is of
course to be entirely excluded; although there is no doubt that Muhammad
himself had a full belief in the personality and influence of Satans and
Djinn. Profound meditation, the struggles of an earnest mind anxious to
attain to truth, the morbid excitability of an epileptic subject, visions
seen in epileptic swoons, disgust at Meccan idolatry, and a desire to teach
his countrymen the divine Unity will sufficiently account for the period of
indecision termed the Fatrah, and for the determination which led Muhammad,
in all sincerity, but still self-deceived, to take upon himself the office
and work of a Messenger from God. We may perhaps infer from such passages as
Sura ii. 123, what had ever been the leading idea in Muhammad's mind.
SURA LXXIV.–THE ENWRAPPED1 [II.]
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
O THOU, ENWRAPPED in thy mantle!
Arise and warn!
Thy Lord–magnify Him!
Thy raiment–purify it!
The abomination–flee it!
And bestow not favours that thou mayest receive again with increase;
And for thy Lord wait thou patiently.
For when there shall be a trump on the trumpet,2
That shall be a distressful day,
A day, to the Infidels, devoid of ease.
Leave me alone to deal with him3 whom I have created,
And on whom I have bestowed vast riches,
And sons dwelling before him,
And for whom I have smoothed all things smoothly down;–
Yet desireth he that I should add more!
But no! because to our signs he is a foe
I will lay grievous woes upon him.
For he plotted and he planned!
May he be cursed! How he planned!
Again, may he be cursed! How he planned!
Then looked he around him,
Then frowned and scowled,
Then turned his back and swelled with disdain,
And said, “This is merely magic that will be wrought;
It is merely the word of a mortal.”
We will surely cast him into Hell-fire.
And who shall teach thee what Hell-fire is?
It leaveth nought, it spareth nought,
Blackening the skin.
Over it are nineteen angels.
None but angels have we made guardians of the fire:4 nor have we made this to
be their number but to perplex the unbelievers, and that they who possess the
Scriptures may be certain of the truth of the Koran, and that they who
believe may increase their faith;
And that they to whom the Scriptures have been given, and the believers, may
And that the infirm of heart and the unbelievers may say, What meaneth God by
Thus God misleadeth whom He will, and whom He will doth He guide aright: and
none knoweth the armies of thy Lord but Himself: and this is no other than a
warning to mankind.
Nay, by the Moon!
By the Night when it retreateth!
By the Morn when it brighteneth!
Hell is one of the most grievous woes,
Fraught with warning to man,
To him among you who desireth to press forward, or to remain behind.5
For its own works lieth every soul in pledge. But they of God’s right hand
In their gardens shall ask of the wicked;–
“What hath cast you into Hell-fire?”6
They will say, “We were not of those who prayed,
And we were not of those who fed the poor,
And we plunged into vain disputes with vain disputers,
And we rejected as a lie, the day of reckoning,
Till the certainty7 came upon us”–
And intercession of the interceders shall not avail them.
Then what hath come to them that they turn aside from the Warning
As if they were affrighted asses fleeing from a lion?
And every one of them would fain have open pages given to him out of Heaven.
It shall not be. They fear not the life to come.
It shall not be. For this Koran is warning enough. And whoso will, it
But not unless God please, shall they be warned. Meet is He to be feared.
Meet is forgiveness in Him.
1 This Sura is placed by Muir in the “second stage” of Meccan Suras, and
twenty-first in chronological order, in the third or fourth year of the
Prophet’s career. According, however, to the chronological list of Suras
given by Weil (Leben M. p. 364) from ancient tradition, as well as from the
consentient voice of tradionists and commentaries (v. Nöld. Geschichte, p.
69; Sprenger’s Life of Mohammad, p. 111) it was the next revealed after the
Fatrah, and the designation to the prophetic office. The main features of
the tradition are, that Muhammad while wandering about in the hills near
Mecca, distracted by doubts and by anxiety after truth, had a vision of the
Angel Gabriel seated on a throne between heaven and earth, that he ran to his
wife, Chadijah, in the greatest alarm, and desired her, perhaps from
superstitious motives (and believing that if covered with clothes he should
be shielded from the glances of evil spirits–comp. Stanley on I Cor. xi. 10),
to envelope him in his mantle; that then Gabriel came down and addressed him
as in v. I. This vision, like that which preceded Sura xcvi., may actually
have occurred during the hallucinations of one of the epileptic fits from
which Muhammad from early youth appears to have suffered. Hence Muhammad in
Sura lxxxi. appeals to it as a matter of fact, and such he doubtless believe
it to be. It may here be observed, that however absurd the Muslim traditions
may be in many of their details, it will generally be found that where there
is an ancient and tolerably universal consent, there will be found at the
bottom a residuum of fact and historical truth. At the same time there can
be no doubt but that the details of the traditions are too commonly founded
upon the attempt to explain or to throw light upon a dark passage of the
Koran, and are pure inventions of a later age.
2 The Arabic words are not those used in later Suras to express the same
3 Said to be Walid b. Mogheira, a person of note among the unbelieving
Meccans. This portion of the Sura seems to be of a different date from the
first seven verses, though very ancient, and the change of subject is similar
to that at v. 9 of the previous Sura.
4 This and the three following verses wear the appearance of having been
inserted at a later period to meet objections respecting the number of the
angels who guard hell, raised by the Jews; perhaps at Medina, as the four
classes of persons specified are those whom Muhammad had to deal with in that
city, viz., the Jews, Believers, the Hypocrites, or undecided, and Idolaters.
These are constantly mentioned together in the Medina Suras.
5 That is, who believe, and do not believe.
6 As the word sakar disturbs the rhyme, it may have been inserted by a
mistake of the copyist for the usual word, which suits it.
7 That is, death. Beidh. Comp. Sura xv. 99.
SURA LXXIII. THE ENFOLDED1 [III.]
MECCA. 20 Verses.
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
O THOU ENFOLDED in thy mantle,
Stand up all night, except a small portion of it, for prayer:
Half; or curtail the half a little,–
Or add to it: And with measured tone intone the Koran,2
For we shall devolve on thee weighty words.
Verily, at the oncoming of night are devout impressions strongest, and words
are most collected;3
But in the day time thou hast continual employ–
And commemorate the name of thy Lord, and devote thyself to Him with entire
Lord of the East and of the West! No God is there but He! Take Him for thy
And endure what they say with patience, and depart from them with a decorous
And let Me alone with the gainsayers, rich in the pleasures of this life; and
bear thou with them yet a little while:
For with Us are strong fetters, and a flaming fire,
And food that choketh, and a sore torment.
The day cometh when the earth and the mountains shall be shaken; and the
mountains shall become a loose sand heap.
Verily, we have sent you an Apostle to witness against you, even as we sent
an Apostle to Pharaoh:
But Pharaoh rebelled against the Apostle, and we therefore laid hold on him
with a severe chastisement.
And how, if ye believe not, will you screen yourselves from the day that
shall turn children greyheaded?
The very heaven shall be reft asunder by it: this threat shall be carried
Lo! this is a warning. Let him then who will, take the way to his Lord.
Of a truth,4 thy Lord knoweth that thou prayest almost two-thirds, or half,
or a third of the night, as do a part of thy followers. But God measureth the
night and the day: He knoweth that ye cannot count its hours aright, and
therefore, turneth to you mercifully. Recite then so much of the Koran as may
be easy to you. He knoweth that there will be some among you sick, while
others travel through the earth in quest of the bounties of God; and others
do battle in his cause. Recite therefore so much of it as may be easy. And
observe the Prayers and pay the legal Alms,5 and lend God a liberal loan: for
whatever good works ye send on before for your own behoof, ye shall find with
God. This will be best and richest in the recompense. And seek the
forgiveness of God: verily, God is forgiving, Merciful.
1 From the first line of this Sura, and its expressions concerning the Koran,
Prayer, and Future Punishment: from the similarity of the tradition with
regard to its having been preceded by a vision of Gabriel (Beidh., etc.), it
seems to belong to, or at least to describe, a period, perhaps immediately
succeeding the Fatrah, during which the hours of night were spent by Muhammad
in devotion and in the labour of working up his materials in rhythmical and
rhyming Suras, and in preparation for the public assumption of the prophetic
office. Comp. especially verses 11, 19, 20, at the end, with 11, 54, 55, of
the preceding Sura.
2 Singe den Koran laut. H.v.P. Psalle Alcoranum psallendo. Mar. Singe den
Koran mit singender und lauter Stimme ab. Ullm.
3 Lit. most firm, perhaps, distinct.
4 This verse, according to a tradition of Ayesha, was revealed one year later
than the previous part of the Sura. Nöldeke says it is "offenbar ein
5 The reader will not be surprised to find in the very outset of Muhammad's
career a frequent mention of Alms, Prayer, Heaven, Hell, Judgment, Apostles,
etc., in their usual sense, when he remembers that Judaism was extensively
naturalised in Arabia, and Christianity, also, although to a smaller extent.
The words and phrases of these religions were doubtless familiar to the
Meccans, especially to that numerous body who were anxiously searching after
some better religion than the idolatries of their fathers (v. on Sura iii.
19, 60), and provided Muhammad with a copious fund from which to draw.
SURA XCIII.1–THE BRIGHTNESS [IV.]
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
BY the noon-day BRIGHTNESS,
And by the night when it darkeneth!
Thy Lord hath not forsaken thee, neither hath he been displeased.
And surely the Future shall be better for thee than the Past,
And in the end shall thy Lord be bounteous to thee and thou be satisfied.
Did he not find thee an orphan2 and gave thee a home?
And found thee erring and guided thee,3
And found thee needy and enriched thee.
As to the orphan therefore wrong him not;
And as to him that asketh of thee, chide him not away;
And as for the favours of thy Lord tell them abroad.
1 This and the six following Suras are expressions of a state of deep mental
anxiety and depression, in which Muhammad seeks to reassure himself by
calling to mind the past favours of God, and by fixing his mind steadfastly
on the Divine Unity. They belong to a period either before the public
commencement of his ministry or when his success was very dubious, and his
future career by no means clearly marked out.
2 The charge of the orphaned Muhammad was undertaken by Abd-al-Mutalib, his
grandfather, A.D. 576. Hishami, p. 35; Kitab al Wakidi, p. 22, have preserved
traditions of the fondness with which the old man of fourscore years treated
the child, spreading a rug for him under the shadow of the Kaaba, protecting
him from the rudeness of his own sons, etc.
3 Up to his 40th year Muhammad followed the religion of his countrymen. Waq.
Tabari says that when he first entered on his office of Prophet, even his
wife Chadijah had read the Scriptures, and was acquainted with the History of
the Prophets. Spreng. p. 100. But his conformity can only have been partial.
SURA XCIV.–THE OPENING [V.]
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
HAVE we not OPENED thine heart for thee?
And taken off from thee thy burden,
Which galled thy back?
And have we not raised thy name for thee?
Then verily along with trouble cometh ease.
Verily along with trouble cometh ease.
But when thou art set at liberty, then prosecute thy toil.
And seek thy Lord with fervour.
SURA CXIII.–THE DAYBREAK [VI.]
MECCA OR MEDINA.–5 Verses
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
SAY: I betake me for refuge to the Lord of the DAY BREAK
Against the mischiefs of his creation;
And against the mischief of the night when it overtaketh me;
And against the mischief of weird women;1
And against the mischief of the envier when he envieth.
1 Lit. who blow on knots. According to some commentators an allusion to a
species of charm. Comp. Virg.Ec. vi. But the reference more probably is to
women in general, who disconcert schemes as thread is disentangled by blowing
upon it. Suras cxiii. are called the el mouwwidhetani, or preservative
chapters, are engraved on amulets,etc.
SURA CXIV.–MEN [VII.]
MECCA OR MEDINA.–6 Verses
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
SAY: I betake me for refuge to the Lord of MEN,
The King of men,
The God of men,
Against the mischief of the stealthily withdrawing whisperer,1
Who whispereth in man's breast–
Against djinn and men.
SURA I.1 [VIII.]
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
PRAISE be to God, Lord of the worlds!
The compassionate, the merciful!
King on the day of reckoning!
Thee only do we worship, and to Thee do we cry for help.
Guide Thou us on the straight path,2
The path of those to whom Thou hast been gracious;–with whom thou art not
angry, and who go not astray.3
1 This Sura, which Nöldeke places last, and Muir sixth, in the earliest class
of Meccan Suras, must at least have been composed prior to Sura xxxvii.
182,where it is quoted, and to Sura xv. 87, which refers to it. And it can
scarcely be an accidental circumstance that the words of the first, second,
and fifth verses do not occur in any other Suras of the first Meccan period
as given by N”ldeke, but frequently in those of the second, which it
therefore, in N”ldeke, opinion, immediately precedes. But this may be
accounted for by its having been recast for the purposes of private and
public devotion by Muhammad himself, which is the meaning probably of the
Muhammadan tradition that it was revealed twice. It should also be observed
that, including the auspicatory formula, there are the same number of
petitions in this Sura as in the Lord's Prayer. It is recited several times
in each of the five daily prayers, and on many other occassions, as in
concluding a bargain, etc. It is termed "the Opening of the Book," "the
Completion," "the Sufficing Sura," the Sura of Praise, Thanks, and Prayer,"
"the Healer," "the Remedy," "the Basis," "the Treasure," "the Mother of the
Book," "the Seven Verses of Repetition." The Muhammadans always say "Amen"
after this prayer, Muhammad having been instructed, says the Sonna, to do so
by the Angel Gabriel.
3 The following transfer of this Sura from the Arabic into the corresponding
English characters may give some idea of the rhyming prose in which the Koran
Bismillahi 'rahhmani 'rrahheem.
El-hamdoo lillahi rabi 'lalameen.
Eyaka naboodoo, wa‚yaka nest aeen.
Ihdina 'ssirat almostakeem.
Sirat alezeena anhamta aleihim, gheiri-'l mughdoobi aleihim, wala dsaleen.
SURA CIX.–UNBELIEVERS [IX.]
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
SAY: O ye UNBELIEVERS!
I worship not that which ye worship,
And ye do not worship that which I worship;
I shall never worship that which ye worship,
Neither will ye worship that which I worship.
To you be your religion; to me my religion.1
1 This Sura is said to have been revealed when Walîd urged Muhammad to
consent that his God should be worshipped at the same time with the old
Meccan deities, or alternately every year. Hishâmi, p. 79; Tabari, p. 139. It
is a distinct renunciation of Meccan idolatry, as the following Sura is a
distinct recognition of the Divine Unity.
SURA CXII.–THE UNITY [X.]
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
SAY: He is God alone:
God the eternal!
He begetteth not, and He is not begotten;
And there is none like unto Him.
SURA CXI. ABU LAHAB [XI.]
MECCA. 5 Verses
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
LET the hands of ABU LAHAB1 perish,and let himself perish!
His wealth and his gains shall avail him not.
Burned shall he be at the fiery flame,2
And his wife laden with fire wood,–
On her neck a rope of palm fibre.
1 Undoubtedly one of the earliest Suras, and refers to the rejection of
Muhammad's claim to the prophetic office by his uncle, Abu Lahab, at the
instigation of his wife, Omm Djemil, who is said to have strewn the path of
Muhammad on one occasion with thorns. The following six Suras, like the two
first, have special reference to the difficulties which the Prophet met with
the outset of his career, especially from the rich.
2 In allusion to the meaning of Abu Lahab, father of flame.
SURA CVIII.–THE ABUNDANCE [XII.]
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
TRULY we have given thee an ABUNDANCE;
Pray therefore to the Lord, and slay the victims.
Verily whose hateth thee shall be childless.1
1 A reply to those who had taunted Muhammad with the death of his sons, as a
mark of the divine displeasure.
SURA CIV.–THE BACKBITER [XII.]
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Woe to every BACKBITER, Defamer!
Who amasseth wealth and storeth it against the future!
He thinketh surely that his wealth shall be with him for ever.
Nay! for verily he shall be flung into the Crushing Fire;
And who shall teach thee what the Crushing Fire is?
It is God's kindled fire,
Which shall mount above the hearts of the damned;
It shall verily rise over them like a vault,
On outstretched columns.
SURA CVII.–RELIGION [XIV.]
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
WHAT thinkest thou of him who treateth our RELIGION as a lie?
He it is who trusteth away the orphan,
And stirreth not others up to feed the poor.
Woe to those who pray,
But in their prayer are careless;
Who make a shew of devotion,
But refuse help to the needy.
SURA CII.–DESIRE [XV.]
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
THE DESIRE of increasing riches occupieth you,
Till ye come to the grave.
Nay! but in the end ye shall know
Nay! once more,in the end ye shall know your folly.
Nay! would that ye knew it with knowledge of certainty!
Surely ye shall see hell-fire.
Then shall ye surely see it with the eye of certainty;
Then shall ye on that day be taken to task concerning pleasures.
SURA XCII.–THE NIGHT [XVI.]
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
BY the NIGHT when she spreads her veil;
By the Day when it brightly shineth;
By Him who made male and female;
At different ends truly do ye aim!1
But as to him who giveth alms and feareth God,
And yieldeth assent to the Good;
To him will we make easy the path to happiness.
But as to him who is covetous and bent on riches,
And calleth the Good a lie,
To him will we make easy the path to misery:
And what shall his wealth avail him when he goeth down?
Truly man’s guidance is with Us
And Our’s, the Future and the Past.
I warn you therefore of the flaming fire;
None shall be cast to it but the most wretched,–
Who hath called the truth a lie and turned his back.
But the God-fearing shall escape it,–
Who giveth away his substance that he may become pure;2
And who offereth not favours to any one for the sake of recompense,
But only as seeking the face of his Lord the Most High.
And surely in the end he shall be well content.
1 See Pref., p. 5, line I.
2 Comp. Luke xi. 41. Muhammad perhaps derived this view of the meritorious
anture of almsgiving from the Jewish oral law.
SURA LXVIII.–THE PEN [XVII.]
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Nun.1 By the PEN2 and by what they write,
Thou, O Prophet; by the grace of thy Lord art not possessed!3
And truly a boundless recompense doth await thee,
For thou art of a noble nature.4
But thou shalt see and they shall see Which of you is the demented.
Now thy Lord! well knoweth He the man who erreth from his path, and well doth
he know those who have yielded to Guidance;
Give not place, therefore, to those who treat thee as a liar:
They desire thee to deal smoothly with them: then would they be smooth as oil
But yield not to the man of oaths, a despicable person,
Defamer, going about with slander,
Hinderer of the good, transgressor, criminal,
Harsh–beside this, impure by birth,
Though a man of riches and blessed with sons.
Who when our wondrous verses are recited to him saith–"Fables of the
We will brand him on the nostrils.
Verily, we have proved them (the Meccans) as we proved the owners of the
garden, when they swore that at morn they would cut its fruits;
But added no reserve.5
Wherefore an encircling desolation from thy Lord swept round it while they
And in the morning it was like a garden whose fruits had all been cut.
Then at dawn they called to each other,
"Go out early to your field, if ye would cut your dates."
So on they went whispering to each other,
"No poor man shall set foot this day within your garden;"
And they went out at daybreak with this settled purpose.
But when they beheld it, they said, "Truly we have been in fault:
Yes! we are forbidden our fruits."
The most rightminded of them said, "Did I not say to you, Will ye not give
praise to God?"
They said, "Glory to our Lord! Truly we have done amiss."
And they fell to blaming one another:
They said, "Oh woe to us! we have indeed transgressed!
Haply our Lord will give us in exchange a better garden than this: verily we
crave it of our Lord."
Such hath been our chastisement–but heavier shall be the chastisement of the
next world. Ah! did they but know it.
Verily, for the God-fearing are gardens of delight in the presence of their
Shall we then deal with those who have surrendered themselves to God, as with
those who offend him?
What hath befallen you that ye thus judge?
Have ye a Scripture wherein ye can search out
That ye shall have the things ye choose?
Or have ye received oaths which shall bind Us even until the day of the
resurrection, that ye shall have what yourselves judge right?
Ask them which of them will guarantee this?
Or is it that they have joined gods with God? let them produce those
associate-gods of theirs, if they speak truth.
On the day when men's legs shall be bared,6 and they shall be called upon to
bow in adoration, they shall not be able:
Their looks shall be downcast: shame shall cover them: because, while yet in
safety, they were invited to bow in worship, but would not obey.
Leave me alone therefore with him who chargeth this revelation with
imposture. We will lead them by degrees to their ruin; by ways which they
Yet will I bear long with them; for my plan is sure.
Askest thou any recompense from them? But they are burdened with debt.
Are the secret things within their ken? Do they copy them from the Book of
Patiently then await the judgment of thy Lord, and be not like him who was in
the fish,7 when in deep distress he cried to God.
Had not favour from his Lord reached him, cast forth would he have been on
the naked shore, overwhelmed with shame:
But his Lord chose him and made him of the just.
Almost would the infidels strike thee down with their very looks when they
hear the warning of the Koran. And they say, "He is certainly possessed."
Yet is it nothing less than a warning for all creatures.
1 It has been conjectured that as the word Nun means fish, there may be a
reference to the fish which swallowed Jonas (v. 48). The fact, however, is
that the meaning of this and of the similar symbols, throughout the Koran,
was unknown to the Muhammadans themselves even in the first century. Possibly
the letters Ha, Mim, which are prefixed to numerous successive Suras were
private marks, or initial letters, attached by their proprietor to the copies
furnished to Said when effecting his recension of the text under Othman. In
the same way, the letters prefixed to other Suras may be monograms, or
abbreviations, or initial letters of the names of the persons to whom the
copies of the respective Suras belonged.
addenda: The symbol nun may possibly refer to this letter as forming the
Rhyme in most of the verses of this Sura.
2 This Sura has been supposed by ancient Muslim authorities to be, if not the
oldest, the second revelation, and to have followed Sura xcvi. But this
opinion probably originated from the expression in v. 1 compared with Sura
xcvi. 4. Verses 17-33 read like a later addition, and this passage, as well
as verse 48-50, has been classed with the Medina revelations. In the absence
of any reliable criterion for fixing the date, I have placed this Sura with
those which detail the opposition encountered by the Prophet at Mecca.
3 By djinn. Comp. Sur. xxxiv. 45.
4 In bearing the taunts of the unbelievers with patience.
5 They did not add the restriction, if God will.
6 An expression implying a grievous calamity; borrowed probably from the
action of stripping previous to wrestling, swimming, etc.
7 Lit. the companion of the fish. Comp. on Jonah Sura xxxvii. 139-148, and
Sura xxi. 87.
SURA XC.–THE SOIL [XVIII.]
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
I NEED not to swear by this SOIL,
This soil on which thou dost dwell,
Or by sire and offspring!1
Surely in trouble have we created man.
What! thinketh he that no one hath power over him?
"I have wasted," saith he, "enormous riches!"
What! thinketh he that no one regardeth him?
What! have we not made him eyes,
And tongue, and lips,
And guided him to the two highways?2
Yet he attempted not the steep.
And who shall teach thee what the steep is?
It is to ransom the captive,3
Or to feed in the day of famine,