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panions? of the Prophet are deemed worthy of being commentators on it. The work of learned divines since then has been to learn the Qurán by heart and to master the traditions, with the writings of the earliest commentators thereon. The revelation itself is never made a subject of investigation or tried by the ordinary rules of criticism. If only the Isnád, or chain of authorities for any interpretation, is good, that interpretation is unhesitatingly accepted as the correct one. It is a fundamental article of belief that no other book in the world can possibly approach near to it in thought or expression. It deals with positive precepts rather than with principles. Its decrees are held to be binding not in the spirit merely but in the very letter on all men, at all times and under every circumstance of life. This follows as a natural consequence from the belief in its eternal nature.
The various portions recited by the Prophet during the twenty-three years of his prophetical career were committed to writing by some of his followers, or treasured up in their memories. As the recital of the Qurán formed a part of every act of public worship, and as such recital was an act of great religious merit, every Muslim tried to remember as much as he could. He who could do so best was entitled to the highest honour, and was often the recipient of a substantial reward.2 The Arab love for poetry facilitated the exercise of this faculty. When the Prophet died the revelation ceased. There was no distinct copy of the whole, nothing to show what was of transitory importance, what of permanent value. There is nothing which proves that the Prophet took any special care of any portions. There seems to have been no definite order in which, when the book was
1. Those who were in constant intercourse with the prophet are called Asháb (Companions); their disciples are named Tábi'in (Followers) ; their disciples are known as Taba-i-Tábi'ín (Followers of the Followers).”
2. “ Thus, after the usual distribution of the spoils taken on the field of Cadesia (A. H. 14) the residue was divided among those who knew most of the Corán." Muir, vol. i. p. 5.
compiled, the various Súras were arranged, for the Qurán, as it now exists, is utterly devoid of all historical or logical sequence. For a year after the Prophet's death nothing seems to have been done ; but then the battle of Yemana took place in which a very large number of the best Qurán reciters were slain. Omar took fright at this, and addressing the Khalíf Abu Bakr, said, " The slaughter may again wax hot amongst the repeaters of the Qurán in other fields of battle, and much may be lost therefrom. Now, there. fore, my advice is that thou shouldest give speedy orders for the collection of the Qurán.” Abu Bakr agreed, and said to Zeid who had been an amanuensis of the Prophet:“ Thou art a young man, and wise, against whom no one amongst us can cast an imputation; and thou wert wont to write down the inspired revelations of the Prophet of the Lord, wherefore now search out the Quran and bring it all together.” Zeid being at length pressed to undertake the task proceeded to gather the Quran together from “date leaves, and tablets of white stone, and from the hearts of men.” In course of time it was all compiled in the order in which the book is now arranged. This was the authorized text for some twenty-three years after the death of Muhammad. Owing, however, either to different modes of recitation, or to differences of expression in the sources from which Zeid's first recension was made, a variety of different readings crept into the copies in use. The Faithful became alarmed and the Khalif Osmán was persuaded to put a stop to such a danger. He appointed Zeid with three of the leading men of the Quraish as assistants to go over the whole work again. A careful recension was made of the whole book which was then assimilated to the Meccan dialect, the purest in Arabia. After this all other copies of the Qurán were burnt by order of the Khalíf, and new transcripts were made of the revised edition which was now the only authorised copy. As it is a fundamental tenet of Islám that the Qurán is incorruptible and absolutely free
from error, no little difficulty has been felt in explaining the need of Osmán's new and revised edition and of the circumstances under which it took place ; but as usual a Tradition has been handed down which makes it lawful to read the Qurán in seven dialects. The book in its present form may be accepted as a genuine reproduction of Abu Bakr's edition with authoritative corrections. We may rest assured that we have in the Qurán now in use the record of what Muhammad said. It thus becomes a fundamental basis of Islam. It was a common practice of the early Muslims when speaking of the Prophet to say: “His character is the Qurán." When people curious to know details of the life of their beloved master asked ’Ayesha, one of his widows, about him, she used to reply :“Thou hast the Qurán, art thou not an Arab and readest the Arab tongue ? Why dost thou ask me, for the Prophet's disposition is no other than the Qurán ?”
Whether Muhammad would have arranged the Qurán as we now have it is a subject on which it is impossible to form an opinion. There are Traditions which seem to show that he had some doubts as to its completeness. I give the following account on the authority of M. Caussin de Percival. When Muhammad felt his end draw near he said :- Bring ink and paper: I wish to write to you a book to preserve you always from error." But it was too late. He could not write or dictate and so he said :-"May the Qurán always be your guide. Perform what it commands you : avoid what it prohibits.” The genuineness of the first part of this Tradition is, I think, very doubtful, the. latter is quite in accordance with the Prophet's claim for his teaching. The letter of the book became, as Muhammad intended it should become, a despotic influence in the Muslim world, a barrier to freethinking on the part of all the orthodox, an obstacle to innovation in all spheres-political, social, intellectual and moral. There are many topics connected with it which can be better explained in the next chapter. All that has now to be here stated is that the Qurán is the first foundation of Islám. It is an error to suppose it is the only one : an error which more than anything else has led persons away from the only position in which they could obtain a true idea of the great system of Islám.
The Shía'hs maintain, without good reason, that the following verses favourable to the claims of 'Ali and of the Shía’h faction were omitted in Osmán's recension,
“O) Believers ! believe in the two lights. (Muhammad and ’Alí).
’Alí is of the number of the pious, we shall give him his right in the day of judgment; we shall not pass over those who wish to deceive him. We have honoured him above all this family. He and his family are very patient. Their enemyl is the chief of sinners.
We have announced to thee a race of just men, men 2 who will not oppose our orders. My mercy and peace are on them living 3 or dead.
As to those who walk in their way, my mercy is on them; they will certainly gain the mansions of Paradise.”
2. THE SUNNAT.-The second foundation of Islám is based on the Hadís (plural Ahádís) or Tradition. Commands from God given in the Qurán are called 'farz' and 'wajib.' A command given by the Prophet or an example set by him is called 'sunnat,' a word meaning a rule. It is then technically applied to the basis of religious faith and practice, which is founded on traditional accounts of the sayings and acts of Muhammad. It is the belief common to all Musalmáns, that the Prophet in all that he did, and in all that he said., was supernaturally guided, and that his words and acts are to all time and to all his followers a divine rule of faith and practice. “We should know that God Almighty has given commands and prohibitions to his ser
1. Muavia. 2. The twelve Imáms. 3. Al-Mahdí is still supposed to be alive.
4. These are called (1) Sunnat-i-Fi'lí ; that which Muhammad himself did. (2) Sunnat.i-Qauli, that which he said should be practised. (3) Sunnat-i-Taqrírí, that which was done in his presence and which he did not forbid.
vants, either by means of the Qurán, or by the mouth of His Prophet.”1 Al-Ghazáli, a most distinguished theologian, writes :-“Neither is the faith according to His will, complete by the testimony to the Unity alone, that is, by simply saying, 'There is but one God,' without the addition of the further testimony to the Apostle, that is, the statement, Muhammad is the apostle of God.'” This belief in the Prophet must extend to all that he has said concerning the present and the future life, for, says the same author, “A man's faith is not accepted till he is fully persuaded of those things which the Prophet hath affirmed shall be after death."
It is often said that the Wahhábís reject Tradition. In the ordinary sense of the word Tradition they may ; but in Muslim Theology the term Hadís, which we translate Tradi. tion, has a special meaning. It is applied only to the sayings of the Prophet, not to those of some uninspired divine or teacher. The Wabhábís reject the Traditions handed down by men who lived after the time of the Companions, but the Hadís, embodying the sayings of the Prophet, they, in common with all Muslim sects, hold to be an inspired revelation of God's will to meu. It would be as reasonable to say that Protestants reject the four Gospels as to say that the Wahhábís reject Tradition. An orthodox Muslim places the Gospels in the same rank as the Hadís, that is, he looks upon
them as a record of what Jesus said and did handed down to us by His Companions. “In the same way as other Prophets received their books under the form of ideas, so our Prophet has in the same way received a great number of communications which are found in the collections of the
2. The great Wahhábí preacher Muhammad Ismá'íl, of whom some account will be given later on, says in the Takwiat-ul-Imán :-"The best of all ways is to have for principles the words (holy writings) of God and of His Apostle ; to hold them alone as precedents, and not to allow our own opinion to be exercised."