The Project Gutenberg ebook of The Koran

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his sources of information. But5 this does not appear to be the case. The

phraseology of our existing versions is not that of the Koran�and these

versions appear to have been made from the Septuagint, the Vulgate, Syriac,

Coptic, and Greek; the four Gospels, says Tischendorf6 originem mixtam habere


From the Arab Jews, Muhammad would be enabled to derive an abundant, though

most distorted, knowledge of the Scripture histories. The secrecy in which he

received his instructions from them, and from his Christian informants,

enabled him boldly to declare to the ignorant pagan Meccans that God had

revealed those Biblical histories to him. But there can be no doubt, from the

constant identity between the Talmudic perversions of Scripture histories and

Rabbinic moral precepts, that the Rabbins of the Hejaz communicated their

legends to Muhammad. And it should be remembered that the Talmud was

completed a century previous to the era of Muhammad,7 and cannot fail to have

extensively influenced the religious creed of all the Jews of the Arabian

peninsula. In one passage,8 Muhammad speaks of an individual Jew�perhaps some

one of note among his professed followers, as a witness to his mission; and

there can be no doubt that his relations with the Jews were, at one time,

those of friendship and intimacy, when we find him speak of their recognising

him as they do their own children, and hear him blaming their most colloquial

expressions.9 It is impossible, however, for us at this distance of time to

penetrate the mystery in which this subject is involved. Yet certain it is,

that, although their testimony against Muhammad was speedily silenced, the

Koreisch knew enough of his private history to disbelieve and to disprove his

pretensions of being the recipient of a divine revelation, and that they

accused him of writing from the dictation of teachers morning and evening.10

And it is equally certain, that all the information received by Muhammad was

embellished and recast in his own mind and with his own words. There is a

unity of thought, a directness and simplicity of purpose, a peculiar and

laboured style, a uniformity of diction, coupled with a certain deficiency of

imaginative power, which proves the ayats (signs or verses) of the Koran at

least to be the product of a single pen. The longer narratives were,

probably, elaborated in his leisure hours, while the shorter verses, each

claiming to be a sign or miracle, were promulgated as occasion required them.

And, whatever Muhammad may himself profess in the Koran11 as to his

ignorance, even of reading and writing, and however strongly modern

Muhammadans may insist upon the same point an assertion by the way

contradicted by many good authors12�there can be no doubt that to assimilate

and work up his materials, to fashion them into elaborate Suras, to fit them

for public recital, must have been a work requiring much time, study, and

meditation, and presumes a far greater degree of general culture than any

orthodox Muslim will be disposed to admit.
In close connection with the above remarks, stands the question of Muhammad's

sincerity and honesty of purpose in coming forward as a messenger from God.

For if he was indeed the illiterate person the Muslims represent him to have

been, then it will be hard to escape their inference that the Koran is, as

they assert it to be, a standing miracle. But if, on the other hand, it was a

Book carefully concocted from various sources, and with much extraneous aid,

and published as a divine oracle, then it would seem that the author is at

once open to the charge of the grossest imposture, and even of impious

blasphemy. The evidence rather shews, that in all he did and wrote, Muhammad

was actuated by a sincere desire to deliver his countrymen from the grossness

of its debasing idolatries�that he was urged on by an intense desire to

proclaim that great truth of the Unity of the Godhead which had taken full

possession of his own soul�that the end to be attained justified to his mind

the means he adopted in the production of his Suras�that he worked himself up

into a belief that he had received a divine call�and that he was carried on

by the force of circumstances, and by gradually increasing successes, to

believe himself the accredited messenger of Heaven. The earnestness of those

convictions which at Mecca sustained him under persecution, and which perhaps

led him, at any price as it were, and by any means, not even excluding deceit

and falsehood, to endeavour to rescue his countrymen from idolatry,�naturally

stiffened at Medina into tyranny and unscrupulous violence. At the same time,

he was probably, more or less, throughout his whole career, the victim of a

certain amount of self-deception. A cataleptic13 subject from his early

youth, born�according to the traditions�of a highly nervous and excitable

mother, he would be peculiarly liable to morbid and fantastic hallucinations,

and alternations of excitement and depression, which would win for him, in

the eyes of his ignorant countrymen, the credit of being inspired. It would

be easy for him to persuade himself that he was "the seal of the Prophets,"

the proclaimer of a doctrine of the Divine Unity, held and taught by the

Patriarchs, especially by Abraham�a doctrine that should present to mankind

Judaism divested of its Mosaic ceremonial, and Christianity divested of the

Atonement and the Trinity14�doctrine, as he might have believed, fitted and

destined to absorb Judaism, Christianity, and Idolatry; and this persuasion,

once admitted into his mind as a conviction, retained possession of it, and

carried him on, though often in the use of means, towards the end of his

career, far different from those with which he commenced it, to a victorious

consummation. It is true that the state of Arabia previous to the time of

Muhammad was one of preparedness for a new religion that the scattered

elements were there, and wanted only the mind of a master to harmonise and

enforce them and that Islam was, so to speak, a necessity of the time.15

Still Muhammad's career is a wonderful instance of the force and life that

resides in him who possesses an intense Faith in God and in the unseen world;

and whatever deductions may be made�and they are many and serious�from the

noble and truthful in his character, he will always be regarded as one of

those who have had that influence over the faith, morals, and whole earthly

life of their fellow-men, which none but a really great man ever did, or can,

exercise; and as one of those, whose efforts to propagate some great verity

will prosper, in spite of manifold personal errors and defects, both of

principle and character.
The more insight we obtain, from undoubted historical sources, into the

actual character of Muhammad, the less reason do we find to justify the

strong vituperative language poured out upon his head by Maracci, Prideaux,

and others, in recent days, one of whom has found, in the Byzantine

"Maometis," the number of the Beast (Rev. xii)! It is nearer to the truth to

say that he was a great though imperfect character, an earnest though

mistaken teacher, and that many of his mistakes and imperfections were the

result of circumstances, of temperament, and constitution; and that there

must be elements both of truth and goodness in the system of which he was the

main author, to account for the world-wide phenomenon, that whatever may be

the intellectual inferiority (if such is, indeed, the fact) of the Muslim

races, the influence of his teaching, aided, it is true, by the vast impulse

given to it by the victorious arms of his followers, has now lasted for

nearly thirteen centuries, and embraces more than one hundred millions of our

race�more than one-tenth part of the inhabitants of the globe.
It must be acknowledged, too, that the Koran deserves the highest praise for

its conceptions of the Divine nature, in reference to the attributes of

Power, Knowledge, and universal Providence and Unity�that its belief and

trust in the One God of Heaven and Earth is deep and fervent�and that, though

it contains fantastic visions and legends, teaches a childish ceremonial, and

justifies bloodshedding, persecution, slavery, and polygamy, yet that at the

same time it embodies much of a noble and deep moral earnestness, and

sententious oracular wisdom, and has proved that there are elements in it on

which mighty nations, and conquering though not, perhaps, durable�empires can

be built up. It is due to the Koran, that the occupants in the sixth century

of an arid peninsula, whose poverty was only equalled by their ignorance,

become not only the fervent and sincere votaries of a new creed, but, like

Amru and many more, its warlike propagators. Impelled possibly by drought and

famine, actuated partly by desire of conquest, partly by religious

convictions, they had conquered Persia in the seventh century, the northern

coasts of Africa, and a large portion of Spain in the eighth, the Punjaub and

nearly the whole of India in the ninth. The simple shepherds and wandering

Bedouins of Arabia, are transformed, as if by a magician's wand, into the

founders of empires, the builders of cities, the collectors of more libraries

than they at first destroyed, while cities like Fostât, Baghdad, Cordova, and

Delhi, attest the power at which Christian Europe trembled. And thus, while

the Koran, which underlays this vast energy and contains the principles which

are its springs of action, reflects to a great extent the mixed character of

its author, its merits as a code of laws, and as a system of religious

teaching, must always be estimated by the changes which it introduced into

the customs and beliefs of those who willingly or by compulsion embraced it.

In the suppression of their idolatries, in the substitution of the worship of

Allah for that of the powers of nature and genii with Him, in the abolition

of child murder, in the extinction of manifold superstitious usages, in the

reduction of the number of wives to a fixed standard, it was to the Arabians

an unquestionable blessing, and an accession, though not in the Christian

sense a Revelation, of Truth; and while every Christian must deplore the

overthrow of so many flourishing Eastern churches by the arms of the

victorious Muslims, it must not be forgotten that Europe, in the middle ages,

owed much of her knowledge of dialectic philosophy, of medicine, and

architecture, to Arabian writers, and that Muslims formed the connecting link

between the West and the East for the importation of numerous articles of

luxury and use. That an immense mass of fable and silly legend has been built

up upon the basis of the Koran is beyond a doubt, but for this Muhammad is

not answerable, any more than he is for the wild and bloodthirsty excesses of

his followers in after ages. I agree with Sale in thinking that, "how

criminal soever Muhammad may have been in imposing a false religion on

mankind, the praises due to his real virtues ought not to be denied him"

(Preface), and venture to think that no one can rise from the perusal of his

Koran without argeeing with that motto from St. Augustin, which Sale has

prefixed to his title page, "Nulla falsa doctrina est, quć 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 (Prćf. 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 Nűh, Lot as Lűt, Moses as

Musa, Abraham as Ibrahym, Pharaoh as Firaun, Aaron as Harun, Jesus as Isa,

John as Yahia, etc.; and it has been thought best to give different

renderings of the same constantly recurring words and phrases, in order more

fully to convey their meaning. For instance, the Arabic words which mean

Companions of the fire, are also rendered inmates of, etc., given up to,

etc.; the People of the Book, i.e. Jews, Christians and Sabeites, is

sometimes retained, sometimes paraphrased. This remark applies to such words

as tanzyl, lit. downsending or Revelation; zikr, the remembrance or constant

repetition or mention of God's name as an act of devotion; saha, the Hour of

present or final judgment; and various epithets of Allah.
I have nowhere attempted to represent the rhymes of the original. The

"Proben" of H. v. Purgstall, in the Fundgruben des Orients, excellent as they

are in many respects, shew that this can only be done with a sacrifice of

literal translation. I subjoin as a specimen Lieut. Burton's version of the

Fatthah, or opening chapter of previous editions. See Sura [viii.] p. 28.
1 In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate!

2 Praise be to Allah, who the three worlds made.

3 The Merciful, the Compassionate,

4 The King of the day of Fate.

5 Thee alone do we worship, and of thee alone do we ask aid.

6 Guide us to the path that is straight�

7 The path of those to whom thy love is great,

Not those on whom is hate,

Nor they that deviate. Amen.
"I have endeavoured," he adds, "in this translation to imitate the imperfect

rhyme of the original Arabic. Such an attempt, however, is full of

difficulties. The Arabic is a language in which, like Italian, it is almost

impossible not to rhyme." Pilgr. ii. 78.

1 Mishcât, vol. i. p. 524. E. Trans. B. viii. 3, 3.
2 Mishcât, as above. Muir, i. p. xiii. Freyt. Einl., p. 384. Memoires de

l�Acad. T. 50, p. 426. Nöld. p. 205.

3 Kitâb al Waquidi, p. 278
4 See Suras xxxvi. xxv. xvii.
5 See Walton�s Prol. ad Polygl. Lond. § xiv. 2.
6 Prol. in N.T. p. lxxviii.
7 The date of the Bab. Gemara is A.D. 530; of the Jerusalem Gamara, A.D.

430; of the Mischina A.D. 220; See Gfrörer�s Jahrhundert des Heils, pp. 11-

8 Sura xlvi. 10, p. 314.
9 Sura vi. 20, p. 318. Sura ii. 13 (p. 339), verse 98, etc.
10 Sura xxv. 5, 6, p. 159.
11 Sura. vii. 156, p. 307; xxix. 47, p. 265.
12 See Dr. Sprenger�s �Life,� p. 101.
13 Or, epileptic.
14 A line of argument to be adopted by a Christian missionary in dealing

with a Muhammadan should be, not to attack Islam as a mass of error, but to

shew that it contains fragments of disjointed truth�that it is based upon

Christianity and Judaism partially understood�especially upon the latter,

without any appreciation of its typical character pointing to Christianity as

a final dispensation.

15 Muhammad can scarcely have failed to observe the opportunity offered for

the growth of a new power, by the ruinous strifes of the Persians and Greeks.

Abulfeda (Life of Muhammad, p. 76) expressly says that he had promised his

followers the spoils o Chosroes and Cćsar.

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-Aghâni, 16. Delhi.) Muhammad adopted and constantly used it, and it is

prefixed to each Sura except the ninth. The former of the two epithets

implies that the mercy of God is exercised as occasions arise, towards all

his creatures; the latter that the quality of mercy is inherent in God and

permanent, so that there is only a shade of difference between the two words.

Maracci well renders, In Nomine Dei Miseratoris, Misericordis. The rendering

I have adopted is that of Mr. Lane in his extracts from the Koran. See also

Freytag's Lex. ii. p. 133. Perhaps, In the name of Allah, the God of Mercy,

the Merciful, would more fully express the original Arabic. The first five

verses of this Sura are, in the opinion of nearly all commentators, ancient

and modern, the earliest revelations made to Muhammad, in the 40th year of

his life, and the starting point of El-Islam. (See the authorities quoted in

detail in Nöldeke's Geschichte des Qorâns, p. 62, n.)

3 The usual rendering is read. But the word qaraa, which is the root of the

word Koran, analogous to the Rabbinic mikra, rather means to address, recite;

and with regard to its etymology and use in the kindred dialects to call, cry

aloud, proclaim. Compare Isai. lviii. 1; 1 Kings xviii. 37; and Gesen.

Thesaur. on the Hebrew root. I understand this passage to mean, "Preach to

thy fellow men what thou believest to be true of thy Lord who has created man

from the meanest materials, and can in like manner prosper the truth which

thou proclaimest. He has taught man the art of writing (recently introduced

at Mecca) and in this thou wilt find a powerful help for propagating the

knowledge of the divine Unity." The speaker in this, as in all the Suras, is

Gabriel, of whom Muhammad had, as he believed, a vision on the mountain Hirâ,

near Mecca. See note 1 on the next page. The details of the vision are quite

4 This, and the following verses, may have been added at a later period,

though previous to the Flight, and with special reference, if we are to

believe the commentators Beidhawi, etc., to the opposition which Muhammad

experienced at the hands of his opponent, Abu Jahl, who had threatened to set

his foot on the Prophet's neck when prostrate in prayer. But the whole

passage admits of application to mankind in general.

5 That is Muhammad. Nöldeke, however, proposes to render "a slave." And it is

certain that the doctrines of Islam were in the first instance embraced by

slaves, many of whom had been carried away from Christian homes, or born of

Christian parents at Mecca. "Men of this description," says Dr. Sprenger

(Life of Mohammad. Allahabad. p. 159), "no doubt prepared the way for the

Islam by inculcating purer notions respecting God upon their masters and

their brethren. These men saw in Mohammad their liberator; and being

superstitious enough to consider his fits as the consequence of an

inspiration, they were among the first who acknowledged him as a prophet.

Many of them suffered torture for their faith in him, and two of them died as

martyrs. The excitement among the slaves when Mohammad first assumed his

office was so great, that Abd Allah bin Jod'an, who had one hundred of these

sufferers, found it necessary to remove them from Makkah, lest they should

all turn converts." See Sura xvi. 105, 111; ii. 220.

6 Lit. hast thou seen if he be upon the guidance.
7 The principal men of the Koreisch who adhered to Abu Jahl.
8 During a period variously estimated from six months to three years from the

revelation of this Sura, or of its earliest verses, the prophetic inspiration

and the revelation of fresh Suras is said to have been suspended. This

interval is called the Fatrah or intermission; and the Meccan Suras delivered

at its close show that at or during this period Muhammad had gained an

increasing and more intimate acquaintance with the Jewish and Christian

Scriptures. "The accounts, however," says Mr. Muir (vol. ii. 86) "are

throughout confused, if not contradictory; and we can only gather with

certainty that there was a time during which his mind hung in suspense, and

doubted the divine mission." The idea of any supernatural influence is of

course to be entirely excluded; although there is no doubt that Muhammad

himself had a full belief in the personality and influence of Satans and

Djinn. Profound meditation, the struggles of an earnest mind anxious to

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