Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

No wonder that so glorious a consum. II. The next point to be considered is mation of a lifelong struggle was followed the distinctive character of Muhammad's by the conversion of countless hosts to so-called divine communications. Islām. No wonder, too, that even Mu- Well-informed persons in the present hammad's iron constitution gave way un- day scarcely need to be told that these der the inevitable reaction. He died soon were determined by the varying circumafterwards at Medinah in the sixty-second stances and necessities of his fluctuating year of his age, and in the tenth year of career. Perhaps the chief distinctive ibe Hijrah. The curtain fell quietly and mark to be noted in comparing the Musnoiselessly on a heroic life's dramá, the lim’s Kurān with the Christian's Holy thrilling action of which had not only Bible is, that the Kurān is believed to revolutionized Arabia, but convulsed the have no human element at all. Nor is it whole civilized world, and for twelve cen- even held to be a record of what Muham. turies and a half has not ceased to agi. mad said or did; for that is recorded in tate it. Probably the peacefulness of his the traditions. The Kurān was a wholly end was due to 'Muhammad's having objective, not a subjective, revelation. It maintained in his own mind, even to the was revealed to one man only. It did last moment, a general belief in the truth not pass through many men's minds durof his own mission, notwithstanding the ing successive generations for nearly two inconsistencies, infirmities, occasional thousand years like the Christian revela. cruel acts and time-serving deceits which tion. The continuous subjectivity of our disfigured his later career, and of which sacred Scriptures protracted through so he could not have been wholly uncon- long a period, and the fact of our acknowl. scious. For Muhammad never professed edging a human element in them, causes to be anything but a sinful man, never the Musalmān to place them in the same claimed to be exempt from the failings category with his Sunnah, or tradition. and infirmities of humanity. “I shall According to his view even our Gospels never enter Paradise,” he declared, “un. are not a direct revelation, but only a less God cover me with his mercy.” How record of Christ's words and actions, far he was conscious of deliberate deceit compiled by his followers and handed or pious fraud, and how far the victim of down to others. Though adınitted to be morbid hallucinations, these are questions inspired, the inspiration is of a very difwhich, involving, as they do, subtle psycho- ferent kind from that of the Kurān. It logical problems and a parallax of nearly is an imparting of ideas, not of words. thirteen centuries, are scarcely determin. The very words of the Kuran on the able by modern European critics whose other hand, and indeed the whole commental and moral constitutions have been plete book, not a mere portion of it, demoulded under different circumstances scended from God, in a fixed and unalterand in wholly different atmospheres. able form on one particular night, called

All that can be affirmed with certainty "the night of power;" though, happily is, that, like other human beings, he had for Muhammad's purposes, its descent two natures, and that these did not dom. was arrested at the lowest of the seven inate together. Probably his lower self | heavens. There it remained treasured had scarcely power to make its presence up, or, so to speak, stored away in reserve; felt during the first effervescence of his portion after portion being delivered as religious and patriotic feelings. It could successive declarations of doctrine, law, seldom, so to speak, rear its head, borne or State policy became needed. Then an down as it was by the resistless impulse audible voice communicated each word in of higher aspirations and a burning en. a low tone to Muhammad, or, as some say, thusiasm directed towards noble ends. It whispered every sentence into his ear. was not till these forces had exhausted This accounts for the constant repetition themselves in achieving victory over ex. of the word “Say” before each revelation. ternal enemies, that subtle internal foes, A very important factor in the success ambitious designs, love of power, re- of this wonderful book, which, notwithvengeful feelings, sensual inclinations, standing its unequal merit, utter want of began to creep stealthily from their hid. system, and the adulteration of its subing-places, and struggle doggedly for the lime ideas by a frequent admixture of pu. mastery. It is certain that if any admirererile and salse teaching, is still revered as of the Arabian prophet's character wishes a direct emanation from God by about to depict it in its most favorable colors, one hundred and fifty millions of human he will be wise to confine himself to the beings, was without doubt this disjoinied period of his Meccah career.

and fragmentary delivery.

It was never in fact either written or acter. Besides, he had himself a great composed like any other book. It grew aversion to writing. He was a prophet, like patchwork, little by little, piece after and not an author. He professed to be piece, patch added to patch. Even the as illiterate as a child. What happened Kurān's warmest admirers must admit was that, as soon as his revelations were that it has often the appearance of being uttered, they were eagerly inscribed by clumsily botched.

his friends on any material that happened The Kurān's own account of itself is to be at hand, and thrown promiscuously that it descended in a succession of par- into some receptacle. There they appear cels.* Some of these parcels were deliv- to have been well shaken up together like ered at Meccah, some at Medinah, during lottery tickets in a bag, until the time a period of twenty-three years, the angel came for their production. Then they Gabriel being the supposed medium of were drawn out at haphazard and written delivery. About ninety of the one hun-down mechanically one after the other dred and fourteen chapters, or more than without regard to chropological, bistoritwo-thirds of the whole, are thought to cal, or logical sequence, and with complete have been the proportion assignable to indifference to the duty of avoiding conthe.Meccah period; and of these the ear. fusion of statement, ambiguity of expres. lier portions, delivered at a time when sion, or tautology. Muhammad really believed himself to be The only rule of arrangement appears stirred by divine impulses, though spoken to have been that of placing the longest in plain prose, are full of poetic fire. chapters first, and making the Medinah They are the utterances of an enthasiast utterances, by a curious perversity, stand wrought up by an intense consciousness before those delivered at Meccah. Oddly of the truth of his prophetic message, enough, too, the name of each chapter and often rise to great sublimity. has been taken from some word, often

In reality each additional portion was quite an unimportant word – such as cow, the result of the constantly recurring need bee, ant, spider, fig - occurring in it. of new declarations to suit changing cir. One of the first chapters to be delive cumstances. Early revelations had to be ered was the short Sūra xcvi. before reabrogated when a fresh turn of events ferred to, beginning: “Recite (or read, or made them inconvenient. This will ac. cry) in the name of the Lord who hatha count for the prosaic character of the created all things.” later deliverances, and for the frequent The Arabic for recite, or “read," is ka. contradictions, incoherencies, and repeti.ra'n (corresponding to the Hebrew kariz tions which mar the beauty of one of the land mikra in Nehemiah viii.). Hence the most extraordinary literary productions Kurān literally means, "that which is to the world has ever seen. And yet, after be recited or read.” And in truth the all, the Kurān is by no means a bulky Kurān is pre-eminently a book to be orally book. It extends to scarcely more than and verbally recited. Silent reading is three-fourths the length of our New Tes: not encouraged, and is not so meritorious tament. Probably an ordinary number of as reading aloud or in a low tone. Perthe Times newspaper contains more mat. baps no other book in existence depends

so much on being audibly pronounced in Nor was the Kurān collected and ar: the very words in which it was composed. ranged in its present form of one hundred To read and repeat these words, even and fourteen Sūras, or chapters, till after without understanding them, is of itself Muhammad's death — first by Abū-bakr, the highest act of worship. No transla

1and afterwards finally by Othmān. Nor tion, in fact, can give the slightest idea of would Muhammad liave found it conven- the grandeur of the original phraseology ient to encourage or sanction its arrange and ihe sonorous ring of its rhyming cament during his own lifetime. He knew dences. Nor would the repetition of the well the inconsistencies of many of his words in a translation have any efficacy; utterances. They had been delivered in for the words of the Kurān are not capa. a spasmodic manner, some under the dis- ble of being translated like the wor of appointment of failure, some under the our Bible. They are believed to be the excitement of success. The idea of con. very words of God, which it is impious to tinuous systematic arrangement seemed meddle with in any way. Even to an out of keeping with their essential char- unbeliever the Kurān in any other lan.

guage, except Arabic, loses all its force, “ In parcels have we parcelled it out and becomes anything but a miraculous

production. In an English translation it

ter.

# Sūra xxv. 34:

to thee."

is fat, tedious, prosy, uninteresting, al- communicated to him in the Kurān, and most unreadable. Let any one who doubts called farz. Suonah also embraces the this first read a chapter of the best trans- prophet's acts, practice, and example. lation be can procure, and then hear the And, since nothing that he said or did is original recited with the true intonation supposed to be recorded in the Kurān, by some learned Arab. Not till then will | but has only been preserved by being he be able to understand the fascinating handed down through a succession of auinfluence which the mere language of the thorities, commencing with the compan. Kurān has exercised for so many centu. ions of his daily life, it follows that Sunries over the whole Muhammadan world, nah depends entirely on hadis, or tradiacting as the one bond to bind together tion, and the expressions Sunnah and all Muslims of different nationalities and Hadīs are often interchanged. All Muantagonistic sects, and preserving, amid salmāns, of whatever sect they may be, mixed and deteriorating dialects, a con- accept the authority of the Sunnah, though stant standard of pure Arabic. It is on some, like the Shi'ahs, will only acknowlthis account that Turks, Persians, and edge their own collection of traditions. Hindūs never think of substituting the Of the other two rules of faith and reading of translations in Turkish, Per- practice, Ijmā is employed for the settle. sian, and Hindūstani, which they could inent of controverted points. It literally well understand, for the recitation of the means the collective judgment of the original. Arabic, of which they know noth- prophet's companions, and of certain ing

leading doctors of Muhammadan law, What the majority of Musalmāns aim called imāms. On the other hand, Kiās at acquiring is not the correct meaning of is the employment of deduction, or inferthe text, but the correct pronunciation ence, to establish any rule of conduct; and intonation of every syllable. The as, for example, that it is incumbent on Kuran, in fact, is divisible into thirty sec- every true Muslim to “abstain” from tions, so as to admit of being read through wine, beer, opium, tobacco, and other with mechanical precision once a month, modern intoxicants not named in the and the strictly pious like to read through Kurān, because a particular intoxicating the whole book, as an act of religious substance is prohibited. merit, three times monthly. In the month of Ramāzān it is often repeated from be. IV. What, then, are the cardinal docginning to end five times. There are even trines of Islām deducible from the Kuran professional readers capable of going and subsequent traditions ? through the whole book in twenty-four The Arabian prophet, as we have alhours, reading with great rapidity of ar- ready seen, was half a Jew in character, ticulation night and day. These men are in race, in language. His mind was natoften paid to repeat the whole Kurān for urally receptive of Jewish ideas. He the benefit of the souls of the dead. could scarcely avoid imbibing severe con.

In Persia the price demanded for a ceptions of the unity of God from the single recitation of the entire book is Jewish settlers with whom he was brought about equivalent to ten shillings. Fre. into contact. His great model and exquently large sums are bequeathed for emplar was the prophet Moses. The the perpetual repetition of the Kurān at monotheistic, unidolatrous creed which the tombs of wealthy or illustrious men.* Muhammad sought to establish was not

put forth by him as a new religion, or even III. But the Kurān is not the only as an old religion in a new setting. He guide to a Musalman's faith and practice. would himself have indignantly repudiAt least three other authoritative directcated the term Muhammadanism which is ries are accepted as supplementary, and in now generally applied to it. His two carditheir own way infallible. These are Sun-nal dogmas were: first, There is no good nah, 1jmā, and Kiās. The first of these, but God (La ilaha illa-l-lālu); secondly, Sunnah, is the name given to the proph- Muhammad is the apostle of God (all ulamet’s on'n sayings and precepts, which, madu-l-rasulu*.lah). The religion based though regarded as inspired, are distin. on these two dogmas he called Islām, guished from the direct commands of God which may mean either “resignation * In the same way the Sikh bible (called Grantha) is

” the peace resulting from the constantiy read, and the mere sound of it believed to complete surrender to the will of God. be esrcacious for the working of cures. During the recent outbreak of malignanı fever at Amritsar the continuous reading (akhandapāth) of the Grantha was * Rasul means “ sent," and corresponds therefore carried op night and day.

to “apostle" rather than to prophet.

[ocr errors]

or

“peace :

new.

Every follower of this religion was a Mus. I foundation for the subsequent rank growth lim, or one peacefully resigned to the of superstitious ideas by which the Muswill of God, and the first Muslim was lim creed ultimately became overlaid. Abraham. Be it observed, too, that, al. The Talmud and the spurious Gospels though Muhammad proclaimed the unity formed the prolific soil out of which the of the Godhead, he did not proclaim the tangle of later doctrine gradually ramified. unity of his own apostleship. His second And, in point of fact, a large proportion dogina does not assert that Muhammad of the longer chapters of the Kurān will is the one sole apostle of God. In fact be found to consist of legendary versions Muhammad was both the creature of an of the Old and New Testament narratives old state of things and the creator of a derived from rabbinical and apocryphal

He was both the outcome of the writings. needs of his own age and the inaugurator To give a complete account of the whole of a new departure. In all probability system of teaching thus evolved would he deluded himself into believing in his require volumes, and volumes have al. own mission; but the only mission with ready been written in so doing. All I which at the outset of his career he be can attempt is to describe briefly the na. lieved himself charged was to establish ture of a Musalmān's ideas in regard to the continuity of revelation ; to sweep God, the sacred Scriptures, prophets, away, so to speak, the mildew of supersti- angels, genii, and devils; the resurrection tious practices which had corrupted the and day of judgment; paradise and hell. once pure faith of his fellow-countrymen ; And first, in regard to God, it is impor. to reclaim them from immorality and tant to note that the two names Islām and bring them back to the worship of the one Allāh constitute a key to Muhammad's God - the one true faith originally re. conception of the divine nature. The vealed to Abraham, and transmitted by word Islām means, as we have seen, com. him through Ishmael to the Arabs, as it plete resignation to God's will; and the was through Isaac and Jacob to the Jews. word Allāh, which is the principal name But he aimed, too, at far more than this. for God among all sects of Muslims, is He strove to unite Arabs, Jews, and used (with Akbar) to denote the Almighty Christians in one homogeneous catholic Being to whose irresistible and irrev. Church – to merge all the faiths of the ocable decrees every human being must world in the simple monotheistic creed resign himself with the unquestioning which, according to him, had always ex. obedience of a helpless infant. To Muisted and would never cease to exist. For hammad God was the All-powerful One ; the accomplishment of this grand design just as to Moses he was “I am that I he not only denounced idolatry, but set am,” the eternal and incomprehensible; himself to abolish all priestcraft, sacer- and just as to Christians he is life, light, dotalism, ritualism, symbolism, ecclesias. holiness, and love. tical organization, caste -- everything that

What amount of free agency, if any, interposed a barrier between the direct Muhammad believed to be compatible communion of man with bis Creator - with God's absolute sovereignty is not everything that implied the religious supe. clear. The one all-important, overwhelm. riority of one human being over another. ing fact, next to the fact of God's unity,

Yet the teaching of Muhammad, how is the fact of God's omnipotence. To ever simple and severe in his early him belong the kingdom, the power, and career, very soon grew with the growth the glory; and to this very day, this idea of his own ambitious projects, very soon overpowers all others in a Muslim's inind, expanded in response to the needs of :vhen he thinks of God. The attributes of the mighty reforming movement to which holiness and love scarcely ever occur to he found himself committed. It was not him at all. Hence Kurān ii. 256 is gento be expected that an increasing throng erally repeated by pious Musalmāns at of followers, many of whom were incap- the end of their prayers five times a day able of abandoning old habits of mind, as follows: “God! There is no God but would long continue satistied with a He, the Ever-Living, ...- Ever-Subsisting. creed "short enough to be written on a Slumber seizeth Him not, nor sleep. .. finger-nail.” Muhammad, in fact, soon His throne comprehendeth the heavens found that to justify his own claim to final. and the earth, and the care of them burity as a prophet, he had to go beyond deneth Him not. And He is the High and his prototype Moses. He had to add, the Great” (Lane). extend, amplify, develop. Even the Old Yet it is remarkable that the first atTestament was insufficient to serve as a tribute revealed is God's mercifulness.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Every chapter in the Kurān begins with | Practically, therefore, no Musalman need the words: "In the name of God, the Com. trouble himself about any other except passionate, the Merciful!” Moreover, the Kurān. the opening chapter, which is daily re- Next, in regard to prophets, Muslims peated over and over again by every Mus. believe that Adam was the first prophet, lim (like the Lord's Prayer among Chris. Muhammad the last; and that between tiads), is as follows:

these two an immense number of other Praise be to God, the Lord of the Worlds, prophets have been sent into the world to the Compassionate, the Merciful, the King of make known God's will; but only six the Day of Judgment. Thee do we worship, were the revealers of new dispensations and of Thee seek we help. Guide us in the successively superseding each other: viz. right way, the way of those to whom Thou hast Adam, "the chosen of God;" Noah," the been gracious, not of those with whom Thou prophet of God;" Abraham," the friend art wroth, nor of the erring. (Lane.) of God;” Moses, “the speaker with

The sin of associating other beings God;” Jesus, "the spirit of God;” and with God is often dwelt upon. This sin Muhammad, " the apostle of God."'* is called shirk; and Christians, as Trini

In Sūra xxxiii. 40 Muhammad is called tarians, are called Mushrik those who

“the seal of the prophets,” whose teaching give God a partner.* “They surely are

was to take the place of that of his predeinfidels who

say God is the third of three, cessors. for there is no God but one God (Sūra v.

It is noteworthy that sin in the Kuran 77). Say, there is one God alone, God is attributed to all the prophets except the eternal; He begetteth not, and He is Jesus. Muhammad is told to ask for fornot begotten" (Sūra cxii.).

giveness (Sūra xlvii. 21), but Jesus never. As to a Muhammadan's belief in the It is remarkable, too, that the Kurān acinspiration of previous scriptures the cords to Christ the power of working mirKurān itself teaches as follows (v. 50): –

acles. He is described as giving the blind

sight and raising the dead, and his birth We also caused Jesus, the son of Mary, to follow the footsteps of the prophets confirm- Muhammad, it is much to his credit, and

was miraculous (Sūra iii. 41-43). As to ing the law which was sent down before bim, is certainly' a distinctive feature of his and we gave him the gospel containing directions and light. . . . We have also sent down teaching, that he always disclaimed similar unto thee the book of the Kurān with truth, powers.

When unbelievers asked for a confirming the Scripture revealed before it, sign, he constantly refused to give any and preserving the same safe! (Sale.) such proof of his divine commission. The

The number of previous scriptures is Kurān he declared to be the one great generally declared to be one hundred and evidence of his apostleship, the standing tour.

miracle of Islām; and that was God's Ten were delivered to Adam; fifty work. It is true, however, that many to Seth ; thirty to Enoch; ten to Abraham; one to Moses (i.e. the Taurāt, or his followers, and the vision of his ascent

fanciful miracles are attributed to him by whole Pentateuch regarded as one); one to David (the Zabūr, or Psalms); one to to heaven is converted into a real ascent. Jesus (the Injil, or Gospels); one to Mu

Next, as to good and bad angels and hammad (the Kuran). But only the last genii (jinn).- among good angels Gabriel four are extant; and of these the Pen.(Jibrail) enjoys the pre-eminence, being a

kind of intercessor for believers. tateuch, the Psalms, and the Gospels, though admitted to be divinely inspired, formed of particles of fire, and were cre

The angels have pure and subtle bodies are held to have been tampered with by lated before man. Their shape appears Jews and Christians who are said to have suppressed, or perverted, all, passages who is sometimes called “the Holy Spir

to have been human; or at least Gabriel, bearing witness to the apostleship of Muhammad. The Kurān, as the latest reve.

“the Spirit of Holiness ” (Sūra ii. lation, has superseded all the others. 81), assumed human shape when be

showed himself both to Muhammad and • As one sect of Arabian Christians worshipped the functions. They separate the soul from

Mary. Angels have a great variety of Virgin Diary, Muhammad imagined her to be one person of the Trinity. In fact his Trinity was father, the body at death, conduct it to paradise, work, the Life of Mahomel," well shows that the convey warnings and revelations to the prophet quite misunderstood 'the real doctrines, of living, count their days, protect and conChristianity.

[ocr errors]

it"

or

† Also called Furkān, “the distinguisher;” Kuran- * Nabi is a prophet, rasul an apostle. The latter is i-Sharif, “the noble book;" Kurān-i-Majid, “the the greater and more specially sent. Every rasul is a glorious book.

nabi, but every nabi is not a rasūl.

Mother, and Son. Sir William Muir, in his admirable

« VorigeDoorgaan »