Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION III.: OF THE QURÁN ITSELF, THE PECULIARITIES OF THAT BOOK; THE MANNER OF ITS BEING WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED, AND THE GENERAL DESIGN OF IT. - The Quran, vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
SECTION III.: OF THE QURÁN ITSELF, THE PECULIARITIES OF THAT BOOK; THE MANNER OF ITS BEING WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED, AND THE GENERAL DESIGN OF IT. - Mohammed, The Quran, vol. 1 
A Comprehensive Commentary on the Quran: Comprising Sale’s Translation and preliminary Discourse, with Additional Notes and Emendations (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, and Co., 1896). 4 vols.
Part of: The Quran, 4 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
OF THE QURÁN ITSELF, THE PECULIARITIES OF THAT BOOK; THE MANNER OF ITS BEING WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED, AND THE GENERAL DESIGN OF IT.
Import of the word qaraa.
The word Qurán, derived from the verb qaraa, to read, signifies properly in Arabic “the reading,” or rather “that which ought to be read;” by which name the Muhammadans denote not only the entire book or volume of the Qurán, but also any particular chapter or section of it; just as the Jews call either the whole Scripture or any part of it by the name of Karâh or Mikra,1 words of the same origin and import; which observation seems to overthrow the opinion of some learned Arabians, who would have the Qurán so named because it is a collection of the loose chapters or sheets which compose it—the verb karaa signifying also to gather or collect;2 and may also, by the way, serve as an answer to those who object3 that the Qurán must be a book forged at once, and could not possibly be revealed by parcels at different times during the course of several years, as the Muhammadans affirm, because the Qurán is often mentioned and called by that name in the very book itself. It may not be amiss to observe, that the syllable Al in the word Alqurán is only the Arabic article, signifying the, and therefore ought to be omitted when the English article is prefixed.
Other names applied to the Qurán.
Besides this peculiar name, the Qurán is also honoured with several appellations common to other books of Scripture: as, al Furqán, from the verb faraqa, to divide or distinguish; not, as the Muhammadan doctors say, because those books are divided into chapters or sections, or distinguish between good and evil, but in the same notion that the Jews use the word Perek or Pirka, from the same root, to denote a section or portion of Scripture.1 It is also called al Musháf, the volume, and al Kitáb, the Book, by way of eminence, which answers to the Biblia of the Greeks; and al Dhikr, the admonition, which name is also given to the Pentateuch and Gospels.
Divisions of the Qurán.
The Qurán is divided into 114 larger portions of very unequal length, which we call chapters, but the Arabians Súwar, in the singular Súra, a word rarely used on any other occasion, and properly signifying a row, order, or regular series, as a course of bricks in building or a rank of soldiers in an army; and is the same in use and import with the Súra or Tora of the Jews, who also call the fifty-three sections of the Pentateuch Sedárim, a word of the same signification.2
Titles of the chapters.
These chapters are not in the manuscript copies distinguished by their numerical order, though for the reader’s ease they are numbered in this edition, but by particular titles, which (except that of the first, which is the initial chapter, or introduction to the rest, and by the old Latin translator not numbered among the chapters) are taken sometimes from a particular matter treated of or person mentioned therein, but usually from the first word of note, exactly in the same manner as the Jews have named their Sedárim; though the words from which some chapters are denominated be very far distant, towards the middle, or perhaps the end of the chapter, which seems ridiculous. But the occasion of this seems to have been, that the verse or passage wherein such word occurs was, in point of time, revealed and committed to writing before the other verses of the same chapter which precede it in order: and the title being given to the chapter before it was completed or the passages reduced to their present order, the verse from whence such title was taken did not always happen to begin the chapter. Some chapters have two or more titles, occasioned by the difference of the copies.
Some of the chapters having been revealed at Makkah and others at Madína, the noting this difference makes a part of the title; but the reader will observe that several of the chapters are said to have been revealed partly at Makkah and partly at Madína; and as to others, it is yet a dispute among the commentators to which place of the two they belong.
The verses of the chapters.
Every chapter is subdivided into smaller portions, of very unequal length also, which we customarily call verses; but the Arabic word is Ayát, the same with the Hebrew Ototh, and signifies signs or wonders; such as are the secrets of God, his attributes, works, judgments, and ordinances, delivered in those verses; many of which have their particular titles also, imposed in the same manner as those of the chapters.
* Notwithstanding this subdivision is common and well known, yet I have never yet seen any manuscript wherein the verses are actually numbered; though in some copies the number of verses in each chapter is set down after the title, which we have therefore added in the table of the chapters And the Muhammadans seem to have some scruple in making an actual distinction in their copies, because the chief disagreement between their several editions of the Qurán consists in the division and number of the verses and for this reason I have not taken upon me to make any such division.
The seven principal editions of the Quran.
Number of verses, words, &c.
Having mentioned the different editions of the Qurán, if may not be amiss here to acquaint the reader that there are seven principal editions, if I may so call them, or ancient copies of that book, two of which were published and used at Madína, a third at Makkah, a fourth at Kúfa, a fifth at Basra, a sixth in Syria, and a seventh called the common or vulgar edition. Of these editions, the first, of Madína, makes the whole number of the verses 6000; the second and fifth, 6214, the third, 6219; the fourth, 6236; the sixth, 6226; and the last, 6225. But they are all said to contain the same number of words, namely, 77,639,1 and the same number of letters, viz., 323,015;2* for the Muhammadans have in this also imitated the Jews, that they have superstitiously numbered the very words and letters of their law; nay, they have taken the pains to compute (how exactly I know not) the number of times each particular letter of the alphabet is contained in the Qurán.3
Other divisions of the Qurán.
Besides these unequal divisions of chapter and verse, the Muhammadans have also divided their Qurán into sixty equal portions, which they call Ahzáb in the singular Hizb, each subdivided into four equal parts; which is also an imitation of the Jews, who have an ancient division of their Mishna into sixty portions called Massictoth;4 but the Qurán is more usually divided into thirty sections only, named Ajzá, from the singular Juz, each of twice the length of the former, and in the like manner subdivided into four parts. These divisions are for the use of the readers of the Qurán in the royal temples, or in the adjoining chapels where the emperors and great men are interred. There are thirty of these readers belonging to every chapel, and each reads his section every day, so that the whole Qurán is read over once a day.1 I have seen several copies divided in this manner, and bound up in as many volumes; and have thought it proper to mark these divisions in the margin of this translation by numeral letters.*
Next after the title, at the head of every chapter, except only the ninth, is prefixed the following solemn form, by the Muhammadans called the Bismillah, “In the name of the most merciful God;” which form they constantly place at the beginning of all their books and writings in general, as a peculiar mark or distinguishing characteristic of their religion, it being counted a sort of impiety to omit it. The Jews for the same purpose make use of the form, “In the name of the Lord,” or, “In the name of the great God;” and the Eastern Christians that of, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” But I am apt to believe Muhammad really took this form, as he did many other things, from the Persian Magi, who used to begin their books in these words, Banám Yazdán bakhshaïshghar dádár; that is, “In the name of the most merciful, just God.”2
This auspicatory form, and also the titles of the chapters, are by the generality of the doctors and commentators believed to be of divine original, no less than the text itself; but the more moderate are of opinion they are only human additions, and not the very word of God.
The letters A.L.M., &c.
There are twenty-nine chapters of the Qurán, which have this peculiarity, that they begin with certain letters of the alphabet, some with a single one, others with more. These letters the Muhammadans believe to be the peculiar marks of the Qurán, and to conceal several profound mysteries, the certain understanding of which, the more intelligent confess, has not been communicated to any mortal, their prophet only excepted. Notwithstanding which, some will take the liberty of guessing at their meaning by that species of Cabbala called by the Jews Notarikon,1 and suppose the letters to stand for as many words expressing the names and attributes of God, his works, ordinances, and decrees; and therefore these mysterious letters, as well as the verses themselves, seem in the Qurán to be called signs. Others explain the intent of these letters from their nature or organ, or else from their value in numbers, according to another species of the Jewish Cabbala called Gematria;2 the uncertainty of which conjectures sufficiently appears from their disagreement. Thus, for example, five chapters, one of which is the second, begin with these letters, A.L.M., which some imagine to stand for Allah latíf majíd, “God is gracious and to be glorified;” or, Ana li minni, “To me and from me,” viz., belongs all perfection and proceeds all good; or else for Ana Allah álam, “I am the most wise God,” taking the first letter to mark the beginning of the first word, the second the middle of the second word, and the third the last of the third word; or for “Allah, Gabriel, Muhammad,” the author, revealer, and preacher of the Qurán. Others say that as the letter A belongs to the lower part of the throat, the first of the organs of speech; L to the palate, the middle organ; and M to the lips, which are the last organs; so these letters signify that God is the beginning, middle, and end, or ought to be praised in the beginning, middle, and end of all our words and actions: or, as the total value of those three letters in numbers is seventy-one, they signify that in the space of so many years, the religion preached in the Qurán should be fully established. The conjecture of a learned Christian1 is, at least, as certain as any of the former, who supposes those letters were set there by the amanuensis, for Amar li Muhammad, i.e., “at the command of Muhammad,” as the five letters prefixed to the nineteenth chapter seem to be there written by a Jewish scribe for koh yaas, i.e., “Thus he commanded.”*
The language of the Qurán.
The Qurán is universally allowed to be written with the utmost elegance and purity of language, in the dialect of the tribe of Quraish, the most noble and polite of all the Arabians, but with some mixture, though very rarely, of other dialects. It is confessedly the standard or the Arabic tongue and as the more orthodox believe, and are taught by the book itself, inimitable by any human pen (though some sectaries have been of another opinion),2 and therefore insisted on as a permanent miracle, greater than that of raising the dead,3 and alone sufficient to convince the world of its divine original.
its elegance of style elaimed to be miraculous.
And to this miracle did Muhammad himself chiefly appeal for the confirmation of his mission, publicly challenging the most eloquent men in Arabia, which was at that time stocked with thousands whose sole study and ambition it was to excel in elegance of style and composition,4 to produce even a single chapter that might be compared with it1* I will mention but one instance out of several, to show that this book was really admired for the beauty of its composure by those who must be allowed to have been conrpetent judges. A poem of Lábíd Ibn Rabia, one of the greatest wits in Arabia in Muhammad’s time, being fixed up on the gate of the temple of Makkah, an honour allowed to none but the most esteemed performances none of the other poets durst offer anything of their own in competition with it. But the second chapter of the Qurán being fixed up by it soon after. Lábid himself (then an idolater), on reading the first verses only, was struck with admiration, and immediately professed the religion taught thereby, declaring that such words could proceed from an inspired person only. This Lábíd was afterwards of great service to Muhammad in writing answers to the satires and invectives that were made on him and his religion by the infidels, and particularly by Amri al Qais,2 prince of the tribe of Asad,3 and author of one of those seven famous poems called al Muallaqat.4†
The style the composition.
The style of the Qurán is generally beautiful and fluent, especially where it imitates the prophetic manner and Scripture phrases. It is concise and often obscure, adorned with bold figures after the Eastern taste, enlivened with florid and sententious expressions, and in many places, especially where the majesty and attributes of God are described, sublime and magnificent; of which the reader cannot but observe several instances, though he must not imagine the translation comes up to the original, notwithstanding my endeavours to do it justice.
Though it be written in prose, yet the sentences generally conclude in a long continued rhyme, for the sake of which the sense is often interrupted, and unnecessary repetitions too frequently made, which appear still more ridiculous in a translation, where the ornament, such as it is, for whose sake they were made, cannot be perceived. However, the Arabians are so mightily delighted with this jingling, that they employ it in their most elaborate compositions, which they also embellish with frequent passages of, and allusions to, the Qurán, so that it is next to impossible to understand them without being well versed in this book.
The influence of this style on Muhammad’s hearers.
It is probable the harmony of expression which the Arabians find in the Qurán might contribute not a little to make them relish the doctrine therein taught, and give an efficacy to arguments which, had they been nakedly proposed without this rhetorical dress, might not have so easily prevailed. Very extraordinary effects are related of the power of words well chosen and artfully placed, which are no less powerful either to ravish or amaze than music itself; wherefore as much has been ascribed by the best orators to this part of rhetoric as to any other.1 He must have a very bad ear who is not uncommonly moved with the very cadence of a well-turned sentence; and Muhammad seems not to have been ignorant of the enthusiastic operation of rhetoric on the minds of men; for which reason he has not only employed his utmost skill in these his pretended revelations, to preserve that dignity and sublimity of style which might seem not unworthy of the majesty of that Being whom he gave out to be the Author of them, and to imitate the prophetic manner of the Old Testament; but he has not neglected even the other arts of oratory, wherein he succeeded so well, and so strangely captivated the minds of his audience, that several of his opponents thought it the effect of witchcraft and enchantment, as he sometimes complains.1
Design of the Qurán
“The general design of the Qurán” (to use the words of a very learned person) “seems to be this: to unite the professors of the three different religions then followed in the populous country of Arabia, who for the most part lived promiscuously, and wandered without guides, the far greater number being idolaters, and the rest Jews and Christians, mostly of erroneous and heterodox belief, in the knowledge and worship of one eternal, invisible God, by whose power all things were made, and those which are not, may be, the supreme Governor, Judge, and absolute Lord of the creation; established under the sanction of certain laws, and the outward signs of certain ceremonies, partly of ancient and partly of novel institution, and enforced by setting before them rewards and punishments, both temporal and eternal; and to bring them all to the obedience of Muhammad, as the prophet and ambassador of God, who after the repeated admonitions, promises, and threats of former ages, was at last to establish and propagate God’s religion on earth by force of arms, and to be acknowledged chief pontiff in spiritual matters, as well as supreme prince in temporal.”2
The doctrine of the Qurán regarding religion and revelation
The use made of Old Testament history in the Qurán.
The great doctrine, then, of the Qurán is the unity of God, to restore which point Muhammad pretended was the chief end of his mission; it being laid down by him as a fundamental truth that there never was nor ever can be more than one true orthodox religion. For though the particular laws or ceremonies are only temporary, and subject to alteration according to the divine direction, yet the substance of it being eternal truth, is not liable to change, but continues immutably the same. And he taught that whenever this religion became neglecte or corrupted in essentials, God had the goodness to re-inform and re-admonish mankind thereof by several prophets, of whom Moses and Jesus were the most distinguished, till the appearance of Muhammad, who is their seal, no other being to be expected after him. And the more effectually to engage people to hearken to him great part of the Qurán is employed in relating examples of dreadful punishments formerly inflicted by God on those who rejected and abused his messengers; several of which stories, or some circumstances of them, are taken from the Old and New Testament, but many more from the apocryphal books and traditions of the Jews and Christians of those ages, set up in the Qurán as truths in opposition to the Scriptures, which the Jews and Christians are charged with having altered; and I am apt to believe that few or none of the relations or circumstances in the Qurán were invented by Muhammad, as is generally supposed, it being easy to trace the greatest part of them much higher, as the rest might be, were more of those books extant, and it was worth while to make the inquiry.
The other part of the Qurán is taken up in giving necessary laws and directions, in frequent admonitions to moral and divine virtues, and above all to the worshipping and reverencing of the only true God, and resignation to his will; among which are many excellent things intermixed not unworthy even a Christian’s perusal.
The use made of the Qurán by Muhammad in emergency.
But besides these, there are a great number of passages which are occasional, and relate to particular emergencies. For whenever anything happened which perplexed and gravelled Muhammad, and which he could not otherwise get over, he had constant recourse to a new revelation, as an infallible expedient in all nice cases; and he found the success of this method answer his expectation. It was certainly an admirable and politic contrivance of his to bring down the whole Qurán at once to the lowest heaven only, and not to the earth, as a bungling prophet would probably have done; for if the whole had been published at once, innumerable objections might have been made, which it would have been very hard, if not impossible, for him to solve; but as he pretended to have received it by parcels, as God saw proper that they should be published for the conversion and instruction of the people, he had a sure way to answer all emergencies, and to extricate himself with honour from any difficulty which might occur. If any objection be hence made to that eternity of the Qurán which the Muhammadans are taught to believe, they easily answer it by their doctrine of absolute predestination, according to which all the accidents for the sake of which these occasional passages were revealed were predetermined by God from all eternity.
Muhammad the author of the Qurán
That Muhammad was really the author and chief contriver of the Qurán is beyond dispute, though it be highly probable that he had no small assistance in his design from others, as his countrymen failed not to object to him.1 However, they differed so much in their conjectures as to the particular persons who gave him such assistance,2 that they were not able, it seems, to prove the charge; Muhammad, it is to be presumed, having taken his measures too well to be discovered. Dr. Prideaux3 has given the most probable account of this matter, though chiefly from Christian writers, who generally mix such ridiculous fables with what they deliver, that they deserve not much credit.
The divine original of the Qurán.
However it be, the Muhammadans absolutely deny the Qurán was composed by their prophet himself, or any other for him, it being their general and orthodox belief that it is of divine original; nay, that it is eternal and uncreated, remaining, as some express it, in the very essence of God; that the first transcript has been from everlasting by God’s throne, written on a table of vast bigness, called the Preserved Table, in which are also recorded the divine decrees past and future; that a copy from this table, in one volume on paper, was by the ministry of the Angel Gabriel sent down to the lowest heaven, in the month of Ramadhán, on the night of power;1 from whence Gabriel revealed it to Muhammad by parcels, some at Makkah, and some at Madína, at different times, during the space of twenty-three years, as the exigency of affairs required; giving him, however, the consolation to chow him the whole (which they tell us was bound in silk, and adorned with gold and precious stones of paradise) once a year; but in the last year of his life he had the favour to see it twice. They say that few chapters were delivered entire, the most part being revealed piecemeal, and written down from time to time by the prophet’s amanuenses in such or such a part of such or such a chapter till they were completed, according to the directions of the angel.2 The first parcel that was revealed is generally agreed to have been the first five verses of the ninety-sixth chapter.3
Original MSS. of the Qurán.
After the new revealed passages had been from the prophet’s mouth taken down in writing by his scribe, they were published to his followers, several of whom took copies for their private use, but the far greater number got them by heart. The originals when returned were put promiscuously into a chest,* observing no order of time, for which reason it is uncertain when many passages were revealed.
Collected into one volume by Abu Baqr.
When Muhammad died, he left his revelations in the same disorder I have mentioned, and not digested into the method, such as it is, which we now find them in. This was the work of his successor, Abu Baqr, who considering that a great number of passages were committed to the memory of Muhammad’s followers, many of whom were slain in their wars, ordered the whole to be collected, not only from the palm-leaves and skins on which they had been written, and which were kept between two boards or covers, but also from the mouths of such as had gotten them by heart. And this transcript when completed he committed to the custody of Hafsa the daughter of Omar, one of the prophet’s widows.1
From this relation it is generally imagined that Abu Baqr was really the compiler of the Qurán; though for aught appears to the contrary, Muhammad left the chapters complete as we now have them, excepting such passages as his successor might add or correct from those who had gotten them by heart; what Abu Baqr did else being perhaps no more than to range the chapters in their present order, which he seems to have done without any regard to time, having generally placed the longest first.
However, in the thirtieth year of the Hijra, Othmán being then Khalífah, and observing the great disagreement in the copies of the Qurán in the several provinces of the empire—those of Irak, for example, following the reading of Abu Musa al Ashari, and the Syrians that of Maqdád Ibn Aswad—he, by advice of the companions, ordered a great number of copies to be transcribed from that of Abu Baqr, in Hafsa’s care, under the inspection of Zaid Ibn Thábit, Abdallah Ibn Zobair, Saïd Ibn al As, and Abdalrahmán Ibn al Hárith, the Makhzumite; whom he directed, that wherever they disagreed about any word, they should write it in the dialect of the Quraish, in which it was at first delivered.1 These copies when made were dispersed in the several provinces of the empire, and the old ones burnt and suppressed. Though many things in Hafsa’s copy were corrected by the above-mentioned supervisors, yet some few various readings still occur, the most material of which will be taken notice of in their proper places.
Various readings: how they originated.
The want of vowels2 in the Arabic character made Muqrís, or readers whose peculiar study and profession it was to read the Qurán with its proper vowels, absolutely necessary. But these, differing in their manner of reading, occasioned still further variations in the copies of the Qurán, as they are now written with the vowels: and herein consist much the greater part of the various readings throughout the book. The readers whose authority the commentators chiefly allege, in admitting these various readings, are seven in number.
The doctrine of abrogation
There being some passages in the Qurán which are contradictory, the Mùhammadan doctors obviate any objection from thence by the doctrine of abrogation; for they say that God in the Qurán commanded several things which were for good reasons afterwards revoked and abrogated.
Passages abrogated are distinguished into three kinds: the first where the letter and the sense are both abrogated; the second, where the letter only is abrogated, but the sense remains; and the third, where the sense is abrogated, though the letter remains.
Of the first kind were several verses which, by the tradition of Malik Ibn Ans, were in the prophet’s lifetime read in the chapter of Repentance, but are not now extant, one of which, being all he remembered of them, was the following: “If a son of Adam had two rivers of gold, he would covet yet a third; and if he had three he would covet yet a fourth (to be added) unto them neither shall the belly of a son of Adam be fihed but with dust. God will turn unto him who shall repent” Another instance of this kind we have from the tradition of Abdallah Ibn Masúd, who reported that the prophet gave him a verse to read which he wrote down; but the next morning, looking in his book, he found it was vanished, and the leaf blank: this he acquainted Muhammad with, who assured him the veise was revoked the same night.
Of the second kind is a verse called the verse of Stoning, which, according to the tradition of Omar, afterwards Khalífah, was extant while Muhammad was living, though it be not now to be found. The words are these: “Abhor not your parents, for this would be ingratitude in you. If a man and woman of reputation commit adultery, ye shall stone them both; it is a punishment ordained by God; for God is mighty and wise.”
Of the last kind are observed several verses in sixty-three different chapters, to the number of 225; such as the precepts of turning in prayer to Jerusalem, fasting after the old custom, forbearance towards idolaters, avoiding the ignorant, and the like.1 The passages of this sort have been carefully collected by several writers and are most of them remarked in their proper places.
The Qurán believed to be eternal.
Though it is the belief of the Sonnites or orthodox that the Qurán is uncreated and eternal, subsisting in the very essence of God, and Muhammad himself is said to have pronounced him an infidel who asserted the contrary, yet several have been of a different opinion; particularly the sect of the Mutazalites,1 and the followers of Isa Ibn Subaih Abu Músa, surnamed al Muzdár, who stuck not to accuse those who held the Qurán to be uncreated of infidelity, as asserters of two eternal beings.2
This point was controverted with so much heat that it occasioned many calamities under some of the Khalífahs of the family of Abbás, al Mámún3 making a public edict declaring the Qurán to be created, which was confirmed by his successors al Mutasim4 and al Wáthik,5 who whipped, imprisoned, and put to death those of the contrary opinion. But at length al Mutawakkil,6 who succeeded al Wáthik, put an end to these persecutions by revoking the former edicts, releasing those that were imprisoned on that account, and leaving every man at liberty as to his belief in this point.7
Al Ghazáli’s opinion as to the Quran
Al Ghazáli seems to have tolerably reconciled both opinions, saying that the Qurán is read and pronounced with the tongue, written in books, and kept in memory; and is yet eternal, subsisting in God’s essence, and not possible to be separated thence by any transmission into men’s memories or the leaves of books;8 by which he seems to mean no more than that the original idea of the Qurán only is really in God, and consequently co-essential and co-eternal with him, but that the copies are created and the work of man.
Opinion of al Jahidh.
The opinion of al Jahidh, chief of a sect bearing his name, touching the Qurán, is too remarkable to be omitted: he used to say it was a body, which might sometimes be turned into a man,1 and sometimes into a beast;2 which seems to agree with the notion of those who assert the Qurán to have two faces, one of a man, the other of a beast;3 thereby, as I conceive, intimating the double interpretation it will admit of, according to the letter or the spirit.
As some have held the Qurán to be created, so there have not been wanting those who have asserted that there is nothing miraculous in that book in respect to style or composition, excepting only the prophetical relations of things past, and predictions of things to come; and that had God left men to their natural liberty, and not restrained them in that particular, the Arabians could have composed something not only equal but superior to the Qurán in eloquence, method, and purity of language. This was another opinion of the Mutazilites, and in particular of al Muzdár, above mentioned, and al Nudhám.4
Muslim exegetical rules.
The Qurán being the Muhammadans’ rule of faith and practice, it is no wonder its expositors and commentators are so very numerous. And it may not be amiss to take notice of the rules they observe in expounding it.
One of the most learned commentators5 distinguishes the contents of the Qurán into allegorical and literal. The former comprehends the more obscure, parabolical, and enigmatical passages, and such as are repealed or abrogated; the latter those which are plain, perspicuous, liable to no doubt, and in full force.
To explain these severally in a right manner, it is necessary from tradition and study to know the time when each passage was revealed, its circumstances, state, and history, and the reasons or particular emergencies for the sake of which it was revealed;1 or, more explicitly, whether the passage was revealed at Makkah or at Madína; whether it be abrogated, or does itself abrogate any other passage; whether it be anticipated in order of time or postponed; whether it be distinct from the context or depends thereon; whether it be particular or general; and, lastly, whether it be implicit by intention or explicit in words.2
Muslim reverence for the Qurán
By what has been said the reader may easily believe this book is in the greatest reverence and esteem among the Muhammadans. They dare not so much as touch it without being first washed or legally purified;3 which, lest they should do by inadvertence, they write these words on the cover or label, “Let none touch it but they who are clean.” They read it with great care and respect, never holding it below their girdles. They swear by it, consult it in their weighty occasions,4 carry it with them to war, write sentences of it on their banners, adorn it with gold and precious stones, and knowingly suffer it not to be in the possession of any of a different persuasion.
The Muhammadans, far from thinking the Qurán to be profaned by a translation, as some authors have written,5 have taken care to have their Scriptures translated not only into the Persian tongue, but into several others, particularly the Javan and Malayan,1 though out of respect to the original Arabic these versions are generally (if not always) interlineary.*
[1 ]This name was at first given to the Pentateuch only, Nehem. viii. Vide Simon. Hist. Crit. du Vieux. Test., l. 1, c. 9.
[2 ]Vide Erpen. not. ad Hist. Joseph., p. 3.
[3 ]Marrac. de Alcor., p. 41.
[1 ]Vide Gol. in append. ad Gram. Arab. Erpen., 175. A chapter or subdivision of the Massictoth of the Mishna is also called Perek. Maimon., Præf. in Seder Zeraim, p. 57.
[2 ]Vide Gol., ubi. sup., 177. Each of the six grand divisions of the Mishna is also called Seder. Maimon., ubi sup., p. 55.
[* ]In this edition the verses are numbered according to the division of Shaikh Abdul Qádir of Delhi, so as to correspond with those of the Roman Urdú edition published at Lodiana, 1876. e. m. w.
[1 ]Or as others reckon them, 99,464 Reland., De Rel. Moh. p. 25
[2 ]Or according to another computation, 330,113. Ibid. Vide Gol. ubi.sup., p 178 D’Herbelot. Bibl Orient. p. 87.
[* ]Hughes in his introduction to the Roman Urdu Qurán, makes the number of verses to be 6616; of words, 77,934; and of letters, 323,671. e. m. w.
[3 ]Yide Reland. De Relig. Moh., p. 25.
[4 ]Vide Gol., ubi sup., p. 178. Maimon., Præf in Seder Zeraim, p. 57.
[1 ]Vide Smith, De Moribus et Instit. Turcar., p. 58.
[* ]In this edition these parts are called sipáras, from two Persian words: si, thirty, and pára, parts; and they are indicated as first sipára, second sipára, &c. e. m. w.
[2 ]Hyde, His. Rel. Vet. Pers., p. 14.
[1 ]Vide Buxtorf, Lexicon Rabbin.
[2 ]Vide Ibid. See also Schickardi Bechinat happerushim, p. 62, &c.
[1 ]Golius in Append. ad Gram. Erp., p. 182.
[* ]See Rodwell’s Koran, p. 17, note. Rodwell conjectures that they may have been the initial letters or marks of the persons to whom the manuscripts of the respective Súras belonged from which Zaid compiled the present text. e. m. w.
[2 ]See post.
[3 ]Ahmed Abd’alhalim, apud Marrace, de Alc., p. 43.
[4 ]A noble writer therefore mistakes the question when he says these Eastern religionists leave their sacred writ the sole standard of literate performance by extinguishing all true learning. For though they were destitute of what we call learning, yet they were far from being ignorant, or unable to compose elegantly in their own tongue. See Lord Shaftesbury’s Characteristics, vol. iii. p 235
[1 ]Al Ghazáli, apud Poc. Spec., 191. See Qurán, c. 17. v. 90, and also c. 2, p. 3, v. 23, and c. II, v. 14, &c.
[* ]Arnold (Islam and Christianity, p. 324) has pointed out that, while the beauty of the Qurán was acknowledged by some of Muhammad’s contemporaries, yet there is proof from the Qurán itself that this was rather the exception than the rule, e.g., chap. viii. 31, also chap. xxi. 5. e. m. w.
[2 ]D’Herbel., Bibl. Orient., p. 512, &c.
[3 ]Poc. Spec., p. 80.
[4 ]See supra, p. 53
[† ]This Amri al Qais died in 540, on his return from Constantinople. See Muir’s Life of Mahomet, vol. i. p. ccxxii. This was just thirty years before Muhammad was born!
[1 ]See Casaubon, of Enthusiasm, c. 4.
[1 ]Qurán, c. 15, v. 6; c. 21, v. 3, &c.
[2 ]Golius. in appen. ad Gram. Erp., p. 176.
[1 ]Vide Qurán, c. 16, v. 105, and c. 25, v. 5.
[2 ]See the notes on those passages.
[3 ]Life of Mahomet, p. 31, &c.
[1 ]Vide Quran, c. 97, and note ibid.
[2 ]Therefore it is a mistake of Dr. Prideaux to say it was brought him chapter by chapter. Life of Mahomet, p. 6. The Jews also say the Law was given to Moses by parcels. Vide Millium, de Mohammedismo ante Moham., p. 365.
[3 ]Not the whole chapter, as Golius says. Append. ad Gr. Erp., p. 108.
[* ]Muir says, “This statement does not seem to be borne out by any good authority.”—Introduction, Life of Mahomet, p. 4. e. m. w.
[1 ]Elmacin. in Vita Abu Becr, Abulfeda.
[1 ]Abulfeda, in Vitis Abu Becr and Othman
[2 ]The characters or marks of the Arabic vowels were not used till several years after Muhammad. Some ascribè the invention of them to Yahya Ibn Yámir, some to Nasr Ibn Asam, surnamed al Laithi, and others to Abu al Aswad al Díli—all, three of whom were doctors of Basra, and immediately succeeded the companions. See D’Herbel., Bibl. Orient., p. 87.
[1 ]Abu Hashem Hebatallah, apud Marracc. de Alc., p. 42.
[1 ]See post, Sect. VIII.
[2 ]Vide Poc. Spec., p. 219, &c.
[3 ]Anno Hij., 218. Abulfarag, p. 245, v. etiam Elmacin. in Vita al Mamûn.
[4 ]In the time of al Mutasim, a doctor named Abu Harún Ibn al Baqa found out a distinction to screen himself, by affirming that the Qurán was ordained, because it is said in that book, “And I have ordained thee the Qurán.” He went still further to allow that what was ordained was created, and yet he denied it thence followed that the Qurán was created. Abulfarag, p. 253.
[5 ]Ibid., p. 257.
[6 ]Anno Hij., p. 242.
[7 ]Abulfarag, p. 262.
[8 ]Al Ghazáli, in prof. fid.
[1 ]The Khalífah al Walíd Ibn Yazíd, who was the eleventh of the race of Ommeya, and is looked on by the Muhammadans as a reprobate and one of no religion, seems to have treated this book as a rational creature; for, dipping into it one day, the first words he met with were these: “Every rebellious, perverse person shall not prosper.” Whereupon he stuck it on a lance, and shot it to pieces with arrows, repeating these verses: “Dost thou rebuke every rebellious, perverse person? Behold, I am that rebellious, perverse person. When thou appearest before thy Lord on the day of resurrection, say, O Lord, al Walíd has torn me thus.” Ibn Shohnah. v. Poc. Spec., p. 223.
[2 ]Poc. Spec., p. 222.
[3 ]Herbelot, p. 87.
[4 ]Abulfeda, Shahristáni, &c., apud Poc Spec., p. 222, et Marracc., De Qur., p. 44.
[5 ]Al Zamakhahari. Vide Quran, c. 3, v. 7, note.
[1 ]Ahmad Ibn Muh. al Thalabi, in Princip. Expos. Alc.
[2 ]Yahya Ibn al Salám al Basri, in Princep. Expos. Alc.
[3 ]The Jews have the same veneration for their law, not daring to touch it with unwashed hands, nor then neither without a cover. Vide Millium, De Mohammedismo ante Moh., p. 366.
[4 ]This they do by dipping into it, and taking an omen from the words which they first light on, which practice they also learned of the Jews, who do the same with the Scriptures. Vide Millium, ubi sup. [See also Lane’s Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, vol. i. chap. xi., near the end. e. m. w.]
[5 ]Sionita, De Urb. Orient., p. 41, et Marrace., De Aic., p. 33.
[1 ]Reland, De Rel. Moh., p. 265.
[* ]In addition to those mentioned in the text, we would note two popular translations of the Qurán in the Urdú language current in India. They are interlined with the Arabic text in all Muslim editions. e. m. w.