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.
SURA1 XCVI.�THICK BLOOD, OR CLOTS OF BLOOD [I.]
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful2
RECITE3 thou, in the name of thy Lord who created;�
Created man from CLOTS OF BLOOD:�
Recite thou! For thy Lord is the most Beneficent,
Who hath taught the use of the pen;�
Hath taught Man that which he knoweth not.
Nay, verily,4 Man is insolent,
Because he seeth himself possessed of riches.
Verily, to thy Lord is the return of all.
What thinkest thou of him that holdeth back
A servant5 of God when he prayeth?
What thinkest thou?6 Hath he followed the true Guidance, or enjoined Piety?
What thinkest thou? Hath he treated the truth as a lie and turned his back?
What! doth he not know how that God seeth?
Nay, verily, if he desist not, We shall seize him by the forelock,
The lying sinful forelock!
Then let him summon his associates;7
We too will summon the guards of Hell:
Nay! obey him not; but adore, and draw nigh to God.8
1 The word Sura occurs nine times in the Koran, viz. Sur. ix. 65, 87, 125,
128; xxiv. 1; xlvii. 22 (twice); ii. 21; x. 39; but it is not easy to
determine whether it means a whole chapter, or part only of a chapter, or is
used in the sense of "revelation." See Weil's Mohammed der Prophet, pp. 361-
363. It is understood by the Muhammadan commentators to have a primary
reference to the succession of subjects or parts, like the rows of bricks in
a wall. The titles of the Suras are generally taken from some word occurring
in each, which is printed in large type throughout, where practicable.
2 This formula�Bismillahi 'rrahmani 'rrahim�is of Jewish origin. It was in
the first instance taught to the Koreisch by Omayah of Taief, the poet, who
was a contemporary with, but somewhat older than, Muhammad; and who, during
his mercantile journeys into Arabia Petr�a and Syria, had made himself
acquainted with the sacred books and doctrines of Jews and Christians. (Kitab
al-Aghâni, 16. Delhi.) Muhammad adopted and constantly used it, and it is
prefixed to each Sura except the ninth. The former of the two epithets
implies that the mercy of God is exercised as occasions arise, towards all
his creatures; the latter that the quality of mercy is inherent in God and
permanent, so that there is only a shade of difference between the two words.
Maracci well renders, In Nomine Dei Miseratoris, Misericordis. The rendering
I have adopted is that of Mr. Lane in his extracts from the Koran. See also
Freytag's Lex. ii. p. 133. Perhaps, In the name of Allah, the God of Mercy,
the Merciful, would more fully express the original Arabic. The first five
verses of this Sura are, in the opinion of nearly all commentators, ancient
and modern, the earliest revelations made to Muhammad, in the 40th year of
his life, and the starting point of El-Islam. (See the authorities quoted in
detail in Nöldeke's Geschichte des Qorâns, p. 62, n.)
3 The usual rendering is read. But the word qaraa, which is the root of the
word Koran, analogous to the Rabbinic mikra, rather means to address, recite;
and with regard to its etymology and use in the kindred dialects to call, cry
aloud, proclaim. Compare Isai. lviii. 1; 1 Kings xviii. 37; and Gesen.
Thesaur. on the Hebrew root. I understand this passage to mean, "Preach to
thy fellow men what thou believest to be true of thy Lord who has created man
from the meanest materials, and can in like manner prosper the truth which
thou proclaimest. He has taught man the art of writing (recently introduced
at Mecca) and in this thou wilt find a powerful help for propagating the
knowledge of the divine Unity." The speaker in this, as in all the Suras, is
Gabriel, of whom Muhammad had, as he believed, a vision on the mountain Hirâ,
near Mecca. See note 1 on the next page. The details of the vision are quite
4 This, and the following verses, may have been added at a later period,
though previous to the Flight, and with special reference, if we are to
believe the commentators Beidhawi, etc., to the opposition which Muhammad
experienced at the hands of his opponent, Abu Jahl, who had threatened to set
his foot on the Prophet's neck when prostrate in prayer. But the whole
passage admits of application to mankind in general.
5 That is Muhammad. Nöldeke, however, proposes to render "a slave." And it is
certain that the doctrines of Islam were in the first instance embraced by
slaves, many of whom had been carried away from Christian homes, or born of
Christian parents at Mecca. "Men of this description," says Dr. Sprenger
(Life of Mohammad. Allahabad. p. 159), "no doubt prepared the way for the
Islam by inculcating purer notions respecting God upon their masters and
their brethren. These men saw in Mohammad their liberator; and being
superstitious enough to consider his fits as the consequence of an
inspiration, they were among the first who acknowledged him as a prophet.
Many of them suffered torture for their faith in him, and two of them died as
martyrs. The excitement among the slaves when Mohammad first assumed his
office was so great, that Abd Allah bin Jod'an, who had one hundred of these
sufferers, found it necessary to remove them from Makkah, lest they should
all turn converts." See Sura xvi. 105, 111; ii. 220.
6 Lit. hast thou seen if he be upon the guidance.
7 The principal men of the Koreisch who adhered to Abu Jahl.
8 During a period variously estimated from six months to three years from the
revelation of this Sura, or of its earliest verses, the prophetic inspiration
and the revelation of fresh Suras is said to have been suspended. This
interval is called the Fatrah or intermission; and the Meccan Suras delivered
at its close show that at or during this period Muhammad had gained an
increasing and more intimate acquaintance with the Jewish and Christian
Scriptures. "The accounts, however," says Mr. Muir (vol. ii. 86) "are
throughout confused, if not contradictory; and we can only gather with
certainty that there was a time during which his mind hung in suspense, and
doubted the divine mission." The idea of any supernatural influence is of
course to be entirely excluded; although there is no doubt that Muhammad
himself had a full belief in the personality and influence of Satans and
Djinn. Profound meditation, the struggles of an earnest mind anxious to