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- The Koran - 4/136 -

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.4 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-Mmn. 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 (Hr. x.) describes the notions of the Ebionites of Nabatha, 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-"Hc 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. 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 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,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

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