A chronological surah order makes the text easier to understand by providing the reader a linear historical flow that is not present in the traditional surah order. Those translations with very brief prefaces such as The Koran by S. The translators in these cases have limited the preface material to very brief introductions of two or three pages. The translations with lengthy historical introductions are primarily the ones that either specifically cite or allude to the Rodwell translation. This claim by Maulvi Muhammad Ali in effect claims the traditional surah order is divinely guided.
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PREFACE It is necessary that some brief explanation should be given with reference to the arrangement of the Suras, or chapters, adopted in this translation of the Koran.
It should be premised that their order as it stands in all Arabic manuscripts, and in all hitherto printed editions, whether Arabic or European, is not chronological, neither is there any authentic tradition to shew that it rests upon the authority of Muhammad himself. In the copies made from it, various readings naturally and necessarily sprung up; and these, under the caliphate of Othman, led to such serious disputes between the faithful, that it became necessary to interpose, and in accordance with the warning of Hodzeifa, "to stop the people, before they should differ regarding their scriptures, as did the Jews and Christians.
Copies of the text formed were thus forwarded to several of the chief military stations in the new empire, and all previously existing copies were committed to the flames. Zaid and his coadjutors, however, do not appear to have arranged the materials which came into their hands upon any system more definite than that of placing the longest and best known Suras first, immediately after the Fatthah, or opening chapter the eighth in this edition ; although even this rule, artless and unscientific as it is, has not been adhered to with strictness.
Anything approaching to a chronological arrangement was entirely lost sight of. Late Medina Suras are often placed before early Meccan Suras; the short Suras at the end of the Koran are its earliest portions; while, as will be seen from the notes, verses of Meccan origin are to be found embedded in Medina Suras, and verses promulged at Medina scattered up and down in the Meccan Suras. It would seem as if Zaid had to a great extent put his materials together just as they came to hand, and often with entire disregard to continuity of subject and uniformity of style.
The text, therefore, as hitherto arranged, necessarily assumes the form of a most unreadable and incongruous patchwork; "une assemblage," says M. It is true that the manner in which Zaid contented himself with simply bringing together his materials and transcribing them, without any attempt to mould them into shape or sequence, and without any effort to supply connecting links between adjacent verses, to fill up obvious chasms, or to suppress details of a nature discreditable to the founder of Islam, proves his scrupulous honesty as a compiler, as well as his reverence for the sacred text, and to a certain extent guarantees the genuineness and authenticity of the entire volume.
But it is deeply to be regretted that he did not combine some measure of historical criticism with that simplicity and honesty of 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. 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.
In the Suras as far as the 54th, p. 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. 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.
It would be impossible, and indeed it is unnecessary, to attempt a detailed life of Muhammad within the narrow limits of a Preface. 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. Perhaps such passages as Sura ii.
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. 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.
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.
Much of his information was derived from Orwa, who died A. Ibn Ishaq, who died in A. On this work, considerable remains of which have come down to us, Ibn Hisham, who died A.
Waquidi of Medina, who died A. It is composed entirely of traditions. Tabari, "the Livy of the Arabians" Gibbon, 51, n.
These ancient writers are the principal sources whence anything like authentic information as to the life of Muhammad has been derived. But however this may be, no records which are posterior in date to these authorities can be considered as at all deserving of dependance. Sprenger, "late historians like Abulfeda as authorities, and to suppose that an account gains in certainty because it is mentioned by several of them, is highly uncritical.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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. See n. Paris, anc. In this treatise, the Hanyfs are termed Sabeites, and said to have received the Volumes Sohof or Books of Abraham, mentioned in Sura lxxxvii.
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.
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. 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.
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. There is but one direct quotation Sura xxi. It is, however, curious to compare such passages as Deut. 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. The earliest Ar. Saadias Gaon, A. But5 this does not appear to be the case. 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. 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.
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.
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.
At the same time, he was probably, more or less, throughout his whole career, the victim of a certain amount of self-deception. 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Arabic text from which this translation has been made is that of Fluegel. 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. 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.
For instance, the Arabic words which mean Companions of the fire, are also rendered inmates of, etc. Jews, Christians and Sabeites, is sometimes retained, sometimes paraphrased.
John Medows Rodwell
Kilkree To Moslems he is, of course, the prophet par excellence, and the Kora is regarded by the orthodox as nothing less than the eternal utterance of Allah. 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. The passage of St. That widely different estimates have been formed of Muhammed is well-known. Anything approaching to a chronological arrangement was entirely lost sight of. 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.
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