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- The Koran - 3/136 -


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 Qōrans, a work to which public honours were awarded in 1859 by the Paris Academy of Inscriptions. From the arrangement of this author I see no reason to depart in regard to the later Suras. It is based upon a searching criticism and minute analysis of the component verses of each, and may be safely taken as a standard, which ought not to be departed from without weighty reasons. I have, however, placed the earlier and more fragmentary Suras, after the two first, in an order which has reference rather to their subject matter than to points of historical allusion, which in these Suras are very few; whilst on the other hand, they are mainly couched in the language of self-communion, of aspirations after truth, and of mental struggle, are vivid pictures of Heaven and Hell, or descriptions of natural objects, and refer also largely to the opposition met with by Muhammad from his townsmen of Mecca at the outset of his public career. This remark applies to what Nöldeke terms "the Suras of the First Period."

The contrast between the earlier, middle, and later Suras is very striking and interesting, and will be at once apparent from the arrangement here adopted. In the Suras as far as the 54th, p. 76, we cannot but notice the entire predominance of the poetical element, a deep appreciation (as in Sura xci. p. 38) of the beauty of natural objects, brief fragmentary and impassioned utterances, denunciations of woe and punishment, expressed for the most part in lines of extreme brevity. With a change, however, in the position of Muhammad when he openly assumes the office of "public warner," the Suras begin to assume a more prosaic and didactic tone, though the poetical ornament of rhyme is preserved throughout. We gradually lose the Poet in the missionary aiming to convert, the warm asserter of dogmatic truths; the descriptions of natural objects, of the judgment, of Heaven and Hell, make way for gradually increasing historical statements, first from Jewish, and subsequently from Christian histories; while, in the 29 Suras revealed at Medina, we no longer listen to vague words, often as it would seem without positive aim, but to the earnest disputant with the enemies of his faith, the Apostle pleading the cause of what he believes to be the Truth of God. He who at Mecca is the admonisher and persuader, at Medina is the legislator and the warrior, who dictates obedience, and uses other weapons than the pen of the Poet and the Scribe. When business pressed, as at Medina, Poetry makes way for Prose, and although touches of the Poetical element occasionally break forth, and he has to defend himself up to a very late period against the charge of being merely a Poet, yet this is rarely the case in the Medina Suras; and we are startled by finding obedience to God and the Apostle, God's gifts and the Apostle's, God's pleasure and the Apostle's, spoken of in the same breath, and epithets and attributes elsewhere applied to Allah openly applied to himself as in Sura ix., 118, 129.

The Suras, viewed as a whole, strike me as being the work of one who began his career as a thoughtful enquirer after truth, and an earnest asserter of it in such rhetorical and poetical forms as he deemed most likely to win and attract his countrymen, and who gradually proceeded from the dogmatic teacher to the politic founder of a system for which laws and regulations had to be provided as occasions arose. And of all the Suras it must be remarked that they were intended not for readers but for hearers-that they were all promulgated by public recital-and that much was left, as the imperfect sentences shew, to the manner and suggestive action of the reciter. It would be impossible, and indeed it is unnecessary, to attempt a detailed life of Muhammad within the narrow limits of a Preface. The main events thereof with which the Suras of the Koran stand in connection, are-The visions of Gabriel, seen, or said to have been seen, at the outset of his career in his 40th year, during one of his seasons of annual monthly retirement, for devotion and meditation to Mount Hirā, 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 Abbāsides. It was under the 5th Caliph, Al- Māmūn, 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 Mįnsūr. 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


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