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1. THE QURán.—The question of the inspiration will be fully discussed, and an account of the laws of the exegesis of the Quran will be given in the next chapter. It is sufficient now to state that this book is held in the highest veneration by Muslims of every sect. When being read it is kept on a stand elevated above the floor, and no one must read or touch it without first making a legal ablution.1 It is not translated unless there is the most urgent necessity, and even then the Arabic text is printed with the translation. It is said that God chose the sacred month of Ramazán in which to give all the revelations which in the form of books. have been vouchsafed to mankind. Thus on the first night of that month the books of Abraham came down from heaven; on the sixth the books of Moses; on the thirteenth the Injil, or Gospel, and on the twenty-seventh the Qurán. On that night, the Laylut-ul-Qadr, or "night of power,' the whole Qurán is said to have descended to the lowest of the seven heavens, from whence it was brought piecemeal to Muhammad as occasion required.2 "Verily we have caused it (the Qurán) to descend on the night of power.' (Súra xcvii. 1.) That night is called the blessed night, the night better than a thousand months, the night when angels came down by the permission of their Lord, the night which bringeth peace and blessings till the rosy dawn. Twice on that night in the solitude of the cave of Hira the voice called, twice though pressed sore "as if a fearful weight had been laid upon him," the prophet struggled
1. "Let none touch it but the purified." (Súra lvi. 78.)
2. "It was certainly an admirable and politic contrivance of his to bring down the whole Korán at once to the lowest heaven only, and not to the earth, as a bungling prophet would 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 receive 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." (Sale's Preliminary Discourse, Sec. tion III.)
against its influence. The third time he heard the words :
"Recite thou, in the name of thy Lord who created-
"When the voice had ceased to speak, telling how from minutest beginnings man had been called into existence, and lifted up by understanding and knowledge of the Lord, who is most beneficent, and who by the pen had revealed that which man did not know, Muhammad woke up from his trance and felt as if "a book had been written in his heart." He was much alarmed. Tradition records that he went hastily to his wife and said-"O Khadija! what has happened to me!" He lay down and she watched by him. When he recovered from his paroxysm, he said "O Khadija! he of whom one would not have believed (i. e., himself) has become either a soothsayer (káhin) or mad." She replied, "God is my protection, O Ab-ul-kásim. He will surely not let such a thing happen unto thee, for thou speakest the truth, dost not return evil for evil, keepest faith, art of a good life and art kind to thy relatives and friends, and neither art thou a talker abroad in the bazaars. What has befallen thee? Hast thou seen aught terrible ?" Muhammad replied "Yes." And he told her what he had seen. Whereupon she answered and said:" Rejoice, O dear husband and be of good cheer. He in whose hands stands Khadija's life, is my witness that thou wilt be the Prophet of this people." The next Súra, the 74th, was revealed at Mecca, after which there seems to have been an intermission, called the Fatrah. It was during this time that the Prophet gained some knowledge of the contents of the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures.
Gabriel is believed to have been the medium of communication. This fact, however, is only once stated in the Qurán :-" Say, whoso is the enemy of Gabriel-For he it is
1. Literary Remains of Emmanuel Deutsch, p. 77.
who by God's leave hath caused the Qurán to descend on thy heart" (Súra ii. 91.) This Súra was revealed some years after the Prophet's flight to Madína. The other references to the revelation of the Qurán are:-"Verily from the Lord of the worlds hath this book come down; the Faithful Spirit (Rúh-ul-Ámín) hath come down with it" (Súra xxvi. 192.) "The Qurán is no other than a revelation revealed to him, one terrible in power (Shadíd-ul-Quá) taught it him." (Súra liii. 5.) These latter passages do not state clearly that Gabriel was the medium of communication, but the belief that he was is almost, if not entirely, universal, and the Commentators say that the terms "Rúhul-Ámín" and "Shadíd-ul-Quá" refer to no other angel or spirit. The use of the word "taught" in the last Súra quoted, and the following expression in Súra lxxv. 18. "When we have recited it, then follow thou the recital," show that the Qurán is entirely an objective revelation and that Muhammad was only a passive medium of communication. The Muhammadan historian, Ibn Khaldoun, says on this point:-" Of all the divine books the Qurán is the only one of which the text, words and phrases have been communicated to a prophet by an audible voice. It is otherwise with the Pentateuch, the Gospel and the other divine books: the prophets received them under the form of ideas." This expresses the universal belief on this point —a belief which reveals the essentially mechanical nature of Islám.
The Qurán thus revealed is now looked upon as the standing miracle of Islám. Other divine books, it is admitted, were revelations received under the form of ideas, but the Qurán is far superior to them all for the actual text was revealed to the ear of the prophet. Thus we read in Súra lxxv. 16—19 :—
1. Prolégomènes d'Ibn Khaldoun, vol. i. p. 195.
"Move not thy tongue in haste to follow and master this revelation;
But when we have recited it, then follow thou the recital;
The Qurán is, then, believed to be a miraculous revelation of divine eloquence, as regards both form and substance, arrangement of words, and its revelation of sacred things. It is asserted that each well-accredited prophet performed miracles in that particular department of human skill or science most flourishing in his age. Thus in the days of Moses magic exercised a wide influence, but all the magicians of Pharaoh's court had to submit to the superior skill of the Hebrew prophet. In the days of Jesus the science of medicine flourished. Men possessed great skill in the art of healing; but no physician could equal the skill of Jesus, who not only healed the sick, but raised the dead. In the days of Muhammad the special and most striking feature of the age was the wonderful power of the Arabs in the art of poetry. Muhammad-ud-Damiri says:"Wisdom hath alighted on three things-the brain of the Franks, the hands of the Chinese and the tongue of the Arabs." They were unrivalled for their eloquence, for the skill with which they arranged their material and gave expression to their thoughts. It is in this very particular that superior excellence is claimed for the Qurán.1 It is to the Muhammadan mind a sure evidence of its miraculous origin that it should excel in this respect. Muslims say that miracles have followed the revelations given to other prophets in order to confirm the divine message. In this case the Qurán is both a revelation and a miracle. Muham
1. "The grandeur of the Qurán consists, its contents apart, in its diction. We cannot explain the peculiarly dignified, impressive, sonorous nature of Semitic sound and parlance; its sesquipedalia verba with their crowd of affixes and prefixes, each of them affirming its own position, whilst consci. ously bearing upon and influencing the central root-which they envelope like a garment of many folds, or as chosen courtiers move around the anointed person of the king." Literary Remains of Emmanuel Deutsch, p. 122.
mad himself said :-" Each prophet has received manifest signs which carried conviction to men: but that which I have received is the revelation. So I hope to have a larger following on the day of resurrection than any other prophet has." Ibn Khaldoun says that "by this the Prophet means that such a wonderful miracle as the Qurán, which is also a revelation, should carry conviction to a very large number."1 To a Muslim the fact is quite clear, and so to him the Qurán is far superior to all the preceding books. Muhammad is said to have convinced a rival, Lebid, a poet-laureate, of the truth of his mission by reciting to him a portion of the now second Súra. "Unquestionably it is one of the very grandest specimens of Koranic or Arabic diction......But even descriptions of this kind, grand as they be, are not sufficient to kindle and preserve the enthusiasm and the faith and the hope of a nation like the Arabs...... The poets before him had sung of valour and generosity, of love and strife and revenge......of early graves, upon which weeps the morning cloud, and of the fleeting nature of life which comes and goes as the waves of the desert sands, as the tents of a caravan, as a flower that shoots up and dies away. Or they shoot their bitter arrows of satire right into the enemy's own soul. Muhammad sang of none of these. No love-minstrelsy his, not the joys of the world, nor sword, nor camel, nor jealousy, nor human vengeance, not the glories of tribe or ancestor. He preached Islám." The very fierceness with which this is done, the swearing such as Arab orator, proficient though he may have been in the art, had never made, the dogmatic certainty with which the Prophet proclaimed his message have tended, equally with the passionate grandeur of his utterances, to hold the Muslim world spell-bound to the letter and imbued with all the narrowness of the book.
So sacred is the text supposed to be that only the Com
1. Prolégomènes d'Ibn Khaldoun vol. i. p. 194.