The Koran by Muhammad

SURA 9 CIX. UNBELIEVERS
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.
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  • 609-632
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The Koran

TRANSLATED FROM THE ARABIC BY THE REV. J.M. RODWELL, M.A. WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY THE REV. G. MARGOLIOUTH, M.A.

Chapter format: Sura Number (this edition) Sura Number (Arabic text) Title

Contents

Introduction

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 revived 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.

G. Margoliouth.

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

The following is a list of the 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.

TO
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,
PUBLIC SERVICES,
AND EMINENT LITERARY ATTAINMENTS,

BY The Translator.

Preface

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 Yemƒma, A.H. 12, the loss of the greater part, or even of the whole, was imminent. Zaid Ibn Thƒbit, 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.” 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.” 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, twelve 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 incoh‚rent de pr‚ceptes moraux, religieux, civils et politiques, mˆl‚s 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 inaccurate, statements.

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 N”ldeke, in his Geschichte des Q“rans, 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 N”ldeke 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 Hirƒ, 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 Abbƒsides. It was under the 5th Caliph, Al-Mƒm–n, 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 mythical element.

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 wife.

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 M ns–r. 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. 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-Mƒm–n. 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 orthodox Christian.

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 accidental.

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 “H‘c 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. But 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 Tischendorf originem mixtam habere videntur.

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, and cannot fail to have extensively influenced the religious creed of all the Jews of the Arabian peninsula. In one passage, 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. 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. 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 Koran 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 authors 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 cataleptic 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 Trinity 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. 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 Fostƒt, 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, qu‘ 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 (Pr‘f. 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 N–h, Lot as L–t, 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- 44.
  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.

SURA 1 XCVI. THICK BLOOD, OR CLOTS OF BLOOD1

Mecca. 19 Verses

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-Aghƒni, 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 N”ldeke’s Geschichte des Qorƒns, 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 Hirƒ, near Mecca. See note 1 on the next page. The details of the vision are quite unhistorical.

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. N”ldeke, 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 2 LXXIV.-THE ENWRAPPED1

MECCA.-55 Verses

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 not doubt;

And that the infirm of heart and the unbelievers may say, What meaneth God by this parable?

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 warneth him.

But not unless God please, shall they be warned. Meet is He to be feared.
Meet is forgiveness in Him.

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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 idea.

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 3 LXXIII. THE ENFOLDED1

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 devotion.
Lord of the East and of the West! No God is there but He! Take Him for thy protector,
And endure what they say with patience, and depart from them with a decorous departure.
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 into effect.

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.

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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. N”ldeke says it is “offenbar ein Medinischer.”

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.

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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. N”ldeke says it is “offenbar ein Medinischer.”

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 4 XCIII. THE BRIGHTNESS1

MECCA. 11 Verses

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.

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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 5 XCIV. THE OPENING

MECCA. 8 Verses

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 6 CXIII. THE DAYBREAK

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.

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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 7 CXIV. MEN

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.

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1 Satan.

SURA 8 I.1

MECCA 7 Verses

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

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1 This Sura, which N”ldeke 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.

2 Islam

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 is written:

Bismillahi ‘rahhmani ‘rrahheem.
El-hamdoo lillahi rabi ‘lalameen.
Arrahhmani raheem.
Maliki yowmi-d-deen.
Eyaka naboodoo, wa‚yaka nest aeen.
Ihdina ‘ssirat almostakeem.
Sirat alezeena anhamta aleihim, gheiri-‘l mughdoobi aleihim, wala dsaleen. Ameen.

SURA 9 CIX. UNBELIEVERS

MECCA. 6 Verses

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

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1 This Sura is said to have been revealed when WalŒd urged Muhammad to consent that his God should be worshipped at the same time with the old Meccan deities, or alternately every year. Hishƒmi, 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 10 CXII. THE UNITY

MECCA. 4 Verses

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 11 CXI. ABU LAHAB

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.

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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 12 CVIII. THE ABUNDANCE

MECCA. 3 Verses

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

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1 A reply to those who had taunted Muhammad with the death of his sons, as a mark of the divine displeasure.

SURA 13 CIV. THE BACKBITER

MECCA. 9 Verses

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 14 CVII. RELIGION

MECCA. 7 Verses

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 15 CII. DESIRE

MECCA. 8 Verses

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 16 XCII.-THE NIGHT

MECCA.-21 Verses

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.

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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 17 LXVIII. THE PEN

Mecca. 52 Verses

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 with thee:

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 ancients.”

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 slumbered,

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 Lord.

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 know not;

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 God?

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.

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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.

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 18 XC. THE SOIL

MECCA. 20 Verses

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,
The orphan who is near of kin, or the poor that lieth in the dust; Beside this, to be of those who believe, and enjoin stedfastness on each other, and enjoin compassion on each other. These shall be the people of the right hand: While they who disbelieve our signs,
Shall be the people of the left.
Around them the fire shall close.

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1 Lit. and begetter and what he hath begotten. 2 Of good and evil.

3 Thus we read in Hilchoth Matt’noth Aniim, c. 8, “The ransoming of captives takes precedence of the feeding and clothing of the poor, and there is no commandment so great as this.”

SURA 19 CV. THE ELEPHANT

MECCA. 5 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

HAST thou not seen1 how thy Lord dealt with the army of the ELEPHANT?

Did he not cause their stratagem to miscarry? And he sent against them birds in flocks (ababils), Claystones did they hurl down upon them, And he made them like stubble eaten down!

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1 This Sura is probably Muhammad’s appeal to the Meccans, intended at the same time for his own encouragement, on the ground of their deliverance from the army of Abraha, the Christian King of Abyssinia and Arabia Felix, said to have been lost in the year of Muhammad’s birth in an expedition against Mecca for the purpose of destroying the Caaba. This army was cut off by small-pox (Wakidi; Hishami), and there is no doubt, as the Arabic word for small-pox also means “small stones,” in reference to the hard gravelly feeling of the pustules, what is the true interpretation of the fourth line of this Sura, which, like many other poetical passages in the Koran, has formed the starting point for the most puerile and extravagant legends. Vide Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, c. 1. The small-pox first shewed itself in Arabia at the time of the invasion by Abraha. M. de Hammer Gemaldesaal, i. 24. Reiske opusc. Med. Arabum. Hal‘, 1776, p. 8.

SURA 20 CVI. THE KOREISCH

MECCA. 4 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

For the union of the KOREISCH:
Their union in equipping caravans winter and summer. And let them worship the Lord of this house, who hath provided them with food against hunger,
And secured them against alarm.1

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1 In allusion to the ancient inviolability of the Haram, or precinct round Mecca. See Sura, xcv. n. p. 41. This Sura, therefore, like the preceding, is a brief appeal to the Meccans on the ground of their peculiar privileges.

SURA 21 XCVII. POWER

MECCA. 5 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

VERILY, we have caused It1 to descend on the night of POWER.

And who shall teach thee what the night of power is?

The night of power excelleth a thousand months:

Therein descend the angels and the spirit by permission of their Lord for every matter;2

And all is peace till the breaking of the morn.

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1 The Koran, which is now pressed on the Meccans with increased prominence, as will be seen in many succeeding Suras of this period.

2 The night of Al Kadr is one of the last ten nights of Ramadhan, and as is commonly believed the seventh of those nights reckoning backward. See Sura xliv. 2. “Three books are opened on the New Year’s Day, one of the perfectly righteous, one of the perfectly wicked, one of the intermediate. The perfectly righteous are inscribed and sealed for life,” etc. Bab. Talm. Rosh. Hash.,  1.

SURA 22 LXXXVI. THE NIGHT-COMER

MECCA. 17 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

BY the heaven, and by the NIGHT-COMER! But who shall teach thee what the night-comer is? ‘Tis the star of piercing radiance.
Over every soul is set a guardian.
Let man then reflect out of what he was created. He was created of the poured-forth germs, Which issue from the loins and breastbones: Well able then is God to restore him to life, On the day when all secrets shall be searched out, And he shall have no other might or helper. I swear by the heaven which accomplisheth its cycle, And by the earth which openeth her bosom, That this Koran is a discriminating discourse, And that it is not frivolous.
They plot a plot against thee,
And I will plot a plot against them. Deal calmly therefore with the infidels; leave them awhile alone.

SURA 23 XCI. THE SUN

MECCA. 15 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

BY the SUN and his noonday brightness! By the Moon when she followeth him!
By the Day when it revealeth his glory! By the Night when it enshroudeth him!
By the Heaven and Him who built it! By the Earth and Him who spread it forth! By a Soul and Him who balanced it,
And breathed into it its wickedness and its piety, Blessed now is he who hath kept it pure, And undone is he who hath corrupted it!
Themoud1 in his impiety rejected the message of the Lord, When the greatest wretch among them rushed up: Said the Apostle of God to them, “The Camel of God! let her drink.”
But they treated him as an impostor and hamstrung her. So their Lord destroyed them for their crime, and visited all alike: Nor feared he the issue.

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1 See Sura vii. 33, for the story of Themoud.

SURA 24 LXXX. HE FROWNED

MECCA. 42 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

HE FROWNED, and he turned his back,1
Because the blind man came to him!
But what assured thee that he would not be cleansed by the Faith, Or be warned, and the warning profit him? As to him who is wealthy
To him thou wast all attention:
Yet is it not thy concern if he be not cleansed:2 But as to him who cometh to thee in earnest, And full of fears
Him dost thou neglect.
Nay! but it (the Koran) is a warning; (And whoso is willing beareth it in mind) Written on honoured pages,
Exalted, purified,
By the hands of Scribes, honoured, righteous. Cursed be man! What hath made him unbelieving? Of what thing did God create him?
Out of moist germs.3
He created him and fashioned him,
Then made him an easy passage from the womb, Then causeth him to die and burieth him;