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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Koran
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Title: The Koran

Release Date: September, 2002 [EBook #3434]

[This file was first posted on September 4, 2002]

[Most recently updated: September 26, 2004]

Edition: 12a

Language: English
Character set encoding: Latin1

The Koran



Introduction Preface Index

Sura Number (this edition) Sura Number (Arabic text) Title
1 96 Thick Blood or Clots of Blood

2 74 The Enwrapped

3 73 The Enfolded

4 93 The Brightness

5 94 The Opening

6 113 The Daybreak

7 114 Men

8 1 Sura I.

9 109 Unbelievers

10 112 The Unity

11 111 Abu Lahab

12 108 The Abundance

13 104 The Backbiter

14 107 Religion

15 102 Desire

16 92 The Night

17 68 The Pen

18 90 The Soil

19 105 The Elephant

20 106 The Koreisch

21 97 Power

22 86 The Night-Comer

23 91 The Sun

24 80 He Frowned

25 87 The Most High

26 95 The Fig

27 103 The Afternoon

28 85 The Starry

29 101 The Blow

30 99 The Earthquake

31 82 The Cleaving

32 81 The Folded Up

33 84 The Splitting Asunder

34 100 The Chargers

35 79 Those Who Drag Forth

36 77 The Sent

37 78 The News

38 88 The Overshadowing

39 89 The Daybreak

40 75 The Resurrection

41 83 Those Who Stint

42 69 The Inevitable

43 51 The Scattering

44 52 The Mountain

45 56 The Inevitable

46 53 The Star

47 70 The Steps or Ascents

48 55 The Merciful

49 54 The Moon

50 37 The Ranks

51 71 Noah

52 76 Man

53 44 Smoke

54 50 Kaf

55 20 Ta. Ha.

56 26 The Poets

57 15 Hedjr

58 19 Mary

59 38 Sad

60 36 Ya. Sin

61 43 Ornaments of Gold

62 72 Djinn

63 67 The Kingdom

64 23 The Believers

65 21 The Prophets

66 25 Al Furkan

67 17 The Night Journey

68 27 The Ant

69 18 The Cave

70 32 Adoration

71 41 The Made Plain

72 45 The Kneeling

73 16 The Bee

74 30 The Greeks

75 11 Houd

76 14 Abraham, On Whom Be Peace

77 12 Joseph, Peace Be On Him

78 40 The Believer

79 28 The Story

80 39 The Troops

81 29 The Spider

82 31 Lokman

83 42 Counsel

84 10 Jonah, Peace Be On Him!

85 34 Saba

86 35 The Creator, or The Angels

87 7 Al Araf

88 46 Al Ahkaf

89 6 Cattle

90 13 Thunder

91 2 The Cow

92 98 Clear Evidence

93 64 Mutual Deceit

94 62 The Assembly

95 8 The Spoils

96 47 Muhammad

97 3 The Family of Imran

98 61 Battle Array

99 57 Iron

100 4 Women

101 65 Divorce

102 59 The Emigration

103 33 The Confederates

104 63 The Hypocrites

105 24 Light

106 58 She Who Pleaded

107 22 The Pilgrimage

108 48 The Victory

109 66 The Forbidding

110 60 She Who Is Tried

111 110 HELP

112 49 The Apartments

113 9 Immunity

114 5 The Table

MOHAMMED was born at Mecca in A.D. 567 or 569. His flight (hijra) to Medina,

which marks the beginning of the Mohammedan era, took place on 16th June 622.

He died on 7th June 632.


THE Koran admittedly occupies an important position among the great religious

books of the world. Though the youngest of the epoch-making works belonging

to this class of literature, it yields to hardly any in the wonderful effect

which it has produced on large masses of men. It has created an all but new

phase of human thought and a fresh type of character. It first transformed a

number of heterogeneous desert tribes of the Arabian peninsula into a nation

of heroes, and then proceeded to create the vast politico-religious

organisations of the Muhammedan world which are one of the great forces with

which Europe and the East have to reckon to-day.
The secret of the power exercised by the book, of course, lay in the mind

which produced it. It was, in fact, at first not a book, but a strong living

voice, a kind of wild authoritative proclamation, a series of admonitions,

promises, threats, and instructions addressed to turbulent and largely

hostile assemblies of untutored Arabs. As a book it was published after the

prophet's death. In Muhammed's life-time there were only disjointed notes,

speeches, and the retentive memories of those who listened to them. To speak

of the Koran is, therefore, practically the same as speaking of Muhammed, and

in trying to appraise the religious value of the book one is at the same time

attempting to form an opinion of the prophet himself. It would indeed be

difficult to find another case in which there is such a complete identity

between the literary work and the mind of the man who produced it.

That widely different estimates have been formed of Muhammed is well-known.

To Moslems he is, of course, the prophet par excellence, and the Koran is

regarded by the orthodox as nothing less than the eternal utterance of Allah.

The eulogy pronounced by Carlyle on Muhammed in Heroes and Hero Worship will

probably be endorsed by not a few at the present day. The extreme contrary

opinion, which in a fresh form has recently been revived1 by an able writer,

is hardly likely to find much lasting support. The correct view very probably

lies between the two extremes. The relative value of any given system of

religious thought must depend on the amount of truth which it embodies as

well as on the ethical standard which its adherents are bidden to follow.

Another important test is the degree of originality that is to be assigned to

it, for it can manifestly only claim credit for that which is new in it, not

for that which it borrowed from other systems.
With regard to the first-named criterion, there is a growing opinion among

students of religious history that Muhammed may in a real sense be regarded

as a prophet of certain truths, though by no means of truth in the absolute

meaning of the term. The shortcomings of the moral teaching contained in the

Koran are striking enough if judged from the highest ethical standpoint with

which we are acquainted; but a much more favourable view is arrived at if a

comparison is made between the ethics of the Koran and the moral tenets of

Arabian and other forms of heathenism which it supplanted.

The method followed by Muhammed in the promulgation of the Koran also

requires to be treated with discrimination. From the first flash of prophetic

inspiration which is clearly discernible in the earlier portions of the book

he, later on, frequently descended to deliberate invention and artful

rhetoric. He, in fact, accommodated his moral sense to the circumstances in

which the r\oc\le he had to play involved him.

On the question of originality there can hardly be two opinions now that the

Koran has been thoroughly compared with the Christian and Jewish traditions

of the time; and it is, besides some original Arabian legends, to those only

that the book stands in any close relationship. The matter is for the most

part borrowed, but the manner is all the prophet's own. This is emphatically

a case in which originality consists not so much in the creation of new

materials of thought as in the manner in which existing traditions of various

kinds are utilised and freshly blended to suit the special exigencies of the

occasion. Biblical reminiscences, Rabbinic legends, Christian traditions

mostly drawn from distorted apocryphal sources, and native heathen stories,

all first pass through the prophet's fervid mind, and thence issue in strange

new forms, tinged with poetry and enthusiasm, and well adapted to enforce his

own view of life and duty, to serve as an encouragement to his faithful

adherents, and to strike terror into the hearts of his opponents.

There is, however, apart from its religious value, a more general view from

which the book should be considered. The Koran enjoys the distinction of

having been the starting-point of a new literary and philosophical movement

which has powerfully affected the finest and most cultivated minds among both

Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages. This general progress of the

Muhammedan world has somehow been arrested, but research has shown that what

European scholars knew of Greek philosophy, of mathematics, astronomy, and

like sciences, for several centuries before the Renaissance, was, roughly

speaking, all derived from Latin treatises ultimately based on Arabic

originals; and it was the Koran which, though indirectly, gave the first

impetus to these studies among the Arabs and their allies. Linguistic

investigations, poetry, and other branches of literature, also made their

appearance soon after or simultaneously with the publication of the Koran;

and the literary movement thus initiated has resulted in some of the finest

products of genius and learning.
The style in which the Koran is written requires some special attention in

this introduction. The literary form is for the most part different from

anything else we know. In its finest passages we indeed seem to hear a voice

akin to that of the ancient Hebrew prophets, but there is much in the book

which Europeans usually regard as faulty. The tendency to repetition which is

an inherent characteristic of the Semitic mind appears here in an exaggerated

form, and there is in addition much in the Koran which strikes us as wild and

fantastic. The most unfavourable criticism ever passed on Muhammed's style

has in fact been penned by the prophet's greatest British admirer, Carlyle

himself; and there are probably many now who find themselves in the same

dilemma with that great writer.
The fault appears, however, to lie partly in our difficulty to appreciate the

psychology of the Arab prophet. We must, in order to do him justice, give

full consideration to his temperament and to the condition of things around

him. We are here in touch with an untutored but fervent mind, trying to

realise itself and to assimilate certain great truths which have been

powerfully borne in upon him, in order to impart them in a convincing form to

his fellow-tribesmen. He is surrounded by obstacles of every kind, yet he

manfully struggles on with the message that is within him. Learning he has

none, or next to none. His chief objects of knowledge are floating stories

and traditions largely picked up from hearsay, and his over-wrought mind is

his only teacher. The literary compositions to which he had ever listened

were the half-cultured, yet often wildly powerful rhapsodies of early Arabian

minstrels, akin to Ossian rather than to anything else within our knowledge.

What wonder then that his Koran took a form which to our colder temperaments

sounds strange, unbalanced, and fantastic?
Yet the Moslems themselves consider the book the finest that ever appeared

among men. They find no incongruity in the style. To them the matter is all

true and the manner all perfect. Their eastern temperament responds readily

to the crude, strong, and wild appeal which its cadences make to them, and

the jingling rhyme in which the sentences of a discourse generally end adds

to the charm of the whole. The Koran, even if viewed from the point of view

of style alone, was to them from the first nothing less than a miracle, as

great a miracle as ever was wrought.

But to return to our own view of the case. Our difficulty in appreciating the

style of the Koran even moderately is, of course, increased if, instead of

the original, we have a translation before us. But one is happy to be able to

say that Rodwell's rendering is one of the best that have as yet been

produced. It seems to a great extent to carry with it the atmosphere in which

Muhammed lived, and its sentences are imbued with the flavour of the East.

The quasi-verse form, with its unfettered and irregular rhythmic flow of the

lines, which has in suitable cases been adopted, helps to bring out much of

the wild charm of the Arabic. Not the least among its recommendations is,

perhaps, that it is scholarly without being pedantic that is to say, that it

aims at correctness without sacrificing the right effect of the whole to

over-insistence on small details.

Another important merit of Rodwell's edition is its chronological arrangement

of the Suras or chapters. As he tells us himself in his preface, it is now in

a number of cases impossible to ascertain the exact occasion on which a

discourse, or part of a discourse, was delivered, so that the system could

not be carried through with entire consistency. But the sequence adopted is

in the main based on the best available historical and literary evidence; and

in following the order of the chapters as here printed, the reader will be

able to trace the development of the prophet's mind as he gradually advanced

from the early flush of inspiration to the less spiritual and more equivocal

r\oc\le of warrior, politician, and founder of an empire.

G. Margoliouth.

1 Mahommed and the Rise of Islam, in �Heroes of Nations� series.

ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS. From the original Arabic by G. Sale, 1734, 1764, 1795,

1801; many later editions, which include a memoir of the translator by R. A.

Davenport, and notes from Savary's version of the Koran; an edition issued by

E. M. Wherry, with additional notes and commentary (Tr\du\ubner's Oriental

Series), 1882, etc.; Sale's translation has also been edited in the Chandos

Classics, and among Lubbock's Hundred Books (No. 22). The Holy Qur\da\an,

translated by Dr. Mohammad Abdul Hakim Khan, with short notes, 1905;

Translation by J. M. Rodwell, with notes and index (the Suras arranged in

chronological order), 1861, 2nd ed., 1876; by E. H. Palmer (Sacred Books of

the East, vols. vi., ix.).

SELECTIONS: Chiefly from Sale's edition, by E. W. Lane, 1843; revised and

enlarged with introduction by S. Lane-Poole. (Tr\du\ubner's Oriental Series),

1879; The Speeches and Table-Talk of the Prophet Mohammad, etc., chosen and

translated, with introduction and notes by S. Lane-Poole, 1882 (Golden

Treasury Series); Selections with introduction and explanatory notes (from

Sale and other writers), by J. Murdock (Sacred Books of the East), 2nd ed.,

1902; The Religion of the Koran, selections with an introduction by A. N.

Wollaston (The Wisdom of the East), 1904.

See also: Sir W. Muir: The Koran, its Composition and Teaching, 1878;

H. Hirschfeld: New Researches into the Composition and Exegesis of the Qoran,

1902; W. St C. Tisdale: Sources of the Qur�ân, 1905; H. U. W. Stanton: The

Teaching of the Qur�án, 1919; A. Mingana: Syriac Influence on the Style of

the Kur�ân, 1927.



It is necessary that some brief explanation should be given with reference to

the arrangement of the Suras, or chapters, adopted in this translation of the

Koran. It should be premised that their order as it stands in all Arabic

manuscripts, and in all hitherto printed editions, whether Arabic or

European, is not chronological, neither is there any authentic tradition to

shew that it rests upon the authority of Muhammad himself. The scattered

fragments of the Koran were in the first instance collected by his immediate

successor Abu Bekr, about a year after the Prophet's death, at the suggestion

of Omar, who foresaw that, as the Muslim warriors, whose memories were the

sole depositaries of large portions of the revelations, died off or were

slain, as had been the case with many in the battle of Yemâma, A.H. 12, the

loss of the greater part, or even of the whole, was imminent. Zaid Ibn

Thâbit, a native of Medina, and one of the Ansars, or helpers, who had been

Muhammad's amanuensis, was the person fixed upon to carry out the task, and

we are told that he "gathered together" the fragments of the Koran from every

quarter, "from date leaves and tablets of white stone, and from the breasts

of men."1 The copy thus formed by Zaid probably remained in the possession of

Abu Bekr during the remainder of his brief caliphate, who committed it to the

custody of Haphsa, one of Muhammad's widows, and this text continued during

the ten years of Omar's caliphate to be the standard. In the copies made from

it, various readings naturally and necessarily sprung up; and these, under

the caliphate of Othman, led to such serious disputes between the faithful,

that it became necessary to interpose, and in accordance with the warning of

Hodzeifa, "to stop the people, before they should differ regarding their

scriptures, as did the Jews and Christians."2 In accordance with this advice,

Othman determined to establish a text which should be the sole standard, and

entrusted the redaction to the Zaid already mentioned, with whom he

associated as colleagues, three, according to others, twelve3 of the

Koreisch, in order to secure the purity of that Meccan idiom in which

Muhammad had spoken, should any occasions arise in which the collators might

have to decide upon various readings. Copies of the text formed were thus

forwarded to several of the chief military stations in the new empire, and

all previously existing copies were committed to the flames.

Zaid and his coadjutors, however, do not appear to have arranged the

materials which came into their hands upon any system more definite than that

of placing the longest and best known Suras first, immediately after the

Fatthah, or opening chapter (the eighth in this edition); although even this

rule, artless and unscientific as it is, has not been adhered to with

strictness. Anything approaching to a chronological arrangement was entirely

lost sight of. Late Medina Suras are often placed before early Meccan Suras;

the short Suras at the end of the Koran are its earliest portions; while, as

will be seen from the notes, verses of Meccan origin are to be found embedded

in Medina Suras, and verses promulged at Medina scattered up and down in the

Meccan Suras. It would seem as if Zaid had to a great extent put his

materials together just as they came to hand, and often with entire disregard

to continuity of subject and uniformity of style. The text, therefore, as

hitherto arranged, necessarily assumes the form of a most unreadable and

incongruous patchwork; "une assemblage," says M. Kasimirski in his Preface,

"informe et incohérent de préceptes moraux, religieux, civils et politiques,

męlés 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 Nöldeke, in his Geschichte des Qôrans, a

work to which public honours were awarded in 1859 by the Paris Academy of

Inscriptions. From the arrangement of this author I see no reason to depart

in regard to the later Suras. It is based upon a searching criticism and

minute analysis of the component verses of each, and may be safely taken as a

standard, which ought not to be departed from without weighty reasons. I

have, however, placed the earlier and more fragmentary Suras, after the two

first, in an order which has reference rather to their subject matter than to

points of historical allusion, which in these Suras are very few; whilst on

the other hand, they are mainly couched in the language of self-communion, of

aspirations after truth, and of mental struggle, are vivid pictures of Heaven

and Hell, or descriptions of natural objects, and refer also largely to the

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